Sunday, May 31, 2009

Terrorized by the Livestock

Paul and I are being terrorized by cows.

“Bulls!” Paul always insists if he hears me say that. “I’m not afraid of cows!”

Alright, bulls. Bulls in mating season, to be specific, bulls running free on our property and up and down the country roads. They’re territorial, they’re huge, and when so inclined they can move really fast.

We were really looking forward to a walk after the first spring rain. We walked out our driveway, turned the corner to go down the country road that borders our property, and suddenly heard a sound like an enraged tyrannasaurus. “What the hell is that?!” The sound got closer and closer while we stood stock still, not sure which way to go. Then we saw it— an enormous wall of sex-crazed bull stepped out into the road ahead of us. It swerved sharply towards us as it caught our scent and stared at us with the look of a psychotic killer on his next victim’s trail.

“Aaagh! Nice bull” we said as we hastily walked back home. We kept as many trees between us and the bull as possible. Luckily, he had more important matters in mind as he continued to call for his mate.

A week or two later our path was blocked by a family of cows. The calves were scampering about while their mothers peacefully chomped the grass down to the ground and a big black bull guarded them all. We took a couple of steps closer and the bull stared us down. We hesitated and it took a step in our direction.

“Let’s walk off the path and see if we can go around them.” I suggested. So we took a few steps off the road and there was another one in the same posture, only this was an even larger blond bull with horns. We turned around and walked back the way we came.

At first we thought we were silly for being afraid but then we heard a story on NPR about a rancher who had his favorite pet bull bull cloned after it died. The first bull's name was Chance so they called the cloned one Second Chance. Second Chance looked and behaved exactly like the first except for one thing. It was more aggressive. One day the rancher brought food out to its stall like he always did and the bull attacked him, gored him in the groin and tossed him in the air.

Since then we’ve been having discussions about what to do if one of the bulls around here charges. Paul’s mom thinks we should bring pots and pans with us on our walks and bang on them with metal spoons. “Uh-huh,” we think as we nod politely, “that’s not going to happen.”

I think we should zig-zag across the countryside in between the trees. That’s a possibility but I know neither one of us has much athletic ability when it comes to running.

Paul says “How would you feel if I brought a gun?”

Like every household out here, there are several firearms in our house—two or three rifles and a pistol. Paul grew up with guns, was given his first rifle when he was 11 or 12 years old. Santa Cruzans would be shocked to discover that a person can be religious, deeply spiritual even, and know how to handle a weapon. Paul developed a bit of a reputation as a sharpshooter earlier in his life. He could hit a dime five times in succession from 100 yards with a rifle, do far greater tricks with a revolver. A serious meditation practice can do wonders for a person’s success on the shooting range.

I felt horrified that Paul had rifles in our closet in Santa Cruz. I never saw him shoot one—he had moved on from that activity by the time we met—but it bothered me just the same. Now I felt grateful.

“Yeah, next time bring a gun.”

So far we haven't remembered to bring one. Paul has promised not to aim at the animals if he does. He doesn’t like the idea of killing, would just shoot into the ground to frighten them away. Besides, killing a cow in this community has steep consequences. We’ve been warned.

“Don’t play ‘Good Samaritan’ and call the rancher if you happen to hit a cow with your truck.” we were told. “Our friend Jamie down the road did that and, boy, did she regret it!” She was held responsible to pay not only for the bull she killed but for the price that might have been paid for all its offspring. No compensation was offered her for the damage to her truck or for any injuries she might have sustained in the accident.

It doesn’t matter if the animal is running free on the road or roaming on your private land. This is “free-range cattle country.” Let the buyer who decides to live here, beware.


elsiee said...

I totally heard that This American Life story about Second Chance the cloned bull - I couldn't believe that bull attacked the owner TWICE and lived to tell about it - you can call me Prissy cause "I's a scared of cows Miss Scarlett..." and bulls??? Forget about it!!!

Anna said...

I think I'd be too afraid to walk around my property. Have you watched any of these shows that show the near-death experiences of others? Many of them include bull attacks.

No thank you.