By Marc J. Elzenbeck

In last month’s “Farming Is Easy,” we introduced our foster cow Minnie, the purebred yearling Holstein whose name was upgraded on delivery to Leslie Lou Minnie Moo.

Standing barely shy of six feet at the shoulder, my personal code name for her, “Cowzilla,” was rejected by one and all as too negative, human-centric, and bovine-shaming. But that is her name to me, and in my defense, she would soon display superpowers, rampage, wade through ocean shallows and generally just keep getting bigger. 

Even pretty good fences are mostly mental barriers to determined livestock, and it took Leslie about 45 minutes to defeat ours. After seeing the notice of a loose cow spotted on Facebook, I alerted the authorities (my wife) and then walked out to check on the two perma-cultie pasture observers who had been enjoying the early autumn sunshine over mimosas on unfolded lawn chairs. These were upended, indicating they had already left in chase. The fence wires weren’t barbed nor yet electrified, so I assumed Leslie had just plowed over or through, but there were no obvious signs of forced exit. 

I opened the gate and walked the full perimeter. Nothing. Paying close attention while doubling back, there were a few wisps of twirled white tail tassel caught on a top post near the southeast corner. A milk cow in the ballpark of 3,500 pounds, feral though she was, had jumped over a four-and-a-half foot tall fence without touching it. That kind of motivation can make for a long day, and we started recruiting more search volunteers.

From her perspective, Leslie was experiencing a romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet proportions. A most social animal, she had just been ripped from a nicely sized herd headed by her first great love, a handsome white Highland bull. Then she was tied up, separated, forced into a paddy wagon, disoriented, and ejected into a barren solitary confinement. As a creature ruled by her passions, Leslie (who would harbor an abiding fetish for old white Ford pickups that bore a resemblance to her Romeo) set out to take matters into her own hooves. Each of which left pressure imprints over a thousand pounds per square inch.

After first heading in romance’s right direction, an electric horse fence shocked her westwards, and she became scared and enraged. Plowing through thick forest blackberries, salal, saplings, and scrub maples, Leslie made a convenient four-foot wide passage for her mimosa-fueled pursuers, who, nearing the edge of the high-bank plateau above the Colvos, heard a rumbling in the undergrowth, followed by cracks, thuds and guttural screams as she fell two hundred feet down the cliff. Then silence.

Figuring she was dead, and on fairly sober reflection of a shared fate, they turned back and the search party re-convened at the HQ. I left to pick up our kids. 

Upon returning from work, a mildly surprised Larry the Bus Driver found Leslie foraging next to his beach house. Aware of her background, he called her adoptive mom to report in, saying she was still in one piece. The nice lady from the Institute of Advanced Bovine Studies was on call with a horse trailer, and the party rendezvoused toward the dead end of Robinwood Road.

Question: so, assuming you find your wayward beast and have a trailer, how exactly do you get her inside it? Answer: You lasso her, of course. This cow was still having A Very Bad Day, however, and didn’t want any more ropes in her life. While evading, she tore a stamped steel gate apart like it was a can of Rainier, slicing into her left shoulder muscles deep enough to put my hand and forearm inside. 

Aided by her state of shock they eventually coaxed her into the trailer. By the time I got home with the kids, my wife and the search posse were waiting by the front porch. Leslie had a two-foot gash but it hadn’t hit any major arteries. Bleeding mostly staunched. “What did the vet say?” Yes, they had called him, and he refused to come treat her. The wound couldn’t be stitched. What did I think we should do? “We’ll have to put her down. Right away.”

Mouths pursed. Gazes all shifted away to some distant focal point and the group shuffled off out of earshot to huddle. Resolved, they marched back as one and the designated speaker announced: “We can’t kill her. She’s pregnant!”

To be continued.

April 7, 2023

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