the phone rings at seven twenty seven sunday morning, and it’s john ivy. the ivy family owns fowler farm, where all of our animals live, and they are out of town on a quick getaway. I knew a call at this hour could only mean one thing. I didn’t even answer the phone, I just grabbed socks and looked for my work pants. a cow is off property, and the neighbors called john--it was obvious. like a fireman waking up to the bell, I was out the door before my eyes had a chance to focus. while dressing, a voicemail from john confirmed my autopilot assumption.
Entries in grassfed cattle (4)
dinner in our farmhouse at agriturismo barbialla nuova
best. jerry-rig. ever. open fire in the corner of the kitchen, and a steak sizzling on a rack, perched on a candelabra, bread toasting on top.
it’s been quite a while now that place has taken on new meaning for me, but this meal hit home. after a long day of wandering through an epically beautiful tuscan hill town, we returned to the farmhouse and got to cooking.
for the first time in what feels like forever a substantial rain has fallen. in mid summer it seemed like the rain would never stop, and then just in time to get what we wished for, it hasn’t rained since.
bed rows at the vegetable farm are cracked over and crusty. pork chop hill has a dust cloud swirling over head. and the grass. well, let’s just call it thirsty.
all day today, the crack pop of thunder and the drip drap of rain lulled the town to a hushed pace—singing lullabies with the wind and painting the sky a heavy grey.
I'm standing in a stranger’s backyard—lasso in hand—staring eye to eye with a five hundred pound runaway cow I’ve been sprinting after for the last five minutes (he's in the photo, look closer). A smile cracks across my face as I realize I have no idea how this is going to end. A new addition to our herd, the same steer has escaped his paddock twice in his first week here. Dr. Richard Kimble, as he has quickly come to be known, decided to take me on a ride around the neighborhood.
After discovering the cow missing from our new arrivals pen, I sprinted the five hundred or so feet to the street to make sure he wasn’t there. Sixty mile per hour traffic and a spooked half-ton beast make bad company. I got eyes on him once I reached the roadway. Fifty yards away, still on the happy side of the fence, things are looking manageable (I thought). This hilariously innocent assessment couldn’t have been more wrong, and a chain of events were set in motion that I will never forget.
The steer was in a light trot along the inside of our perimeter fence line. We were in our lower pasture, which has not been grazed by the herd at all this year, and the grass has grown Serengeti tall. I was hoping against all hopes that this perimeter fence line maintained structural integrity from where we were, back all the way to the barn, which is where I would have loved to direct him.
No more than fifteen seconds after this hope fluttered through my racing heart I noticed a tree down thirty yards a head. A tree down—down and to the left—crushing the aging fence line beneath its’ trunk. Might as well have been an illuminated emergency exit sign.
At this moment, as his hoofs left the property, my subconscious considered the options. Sprint after him, inevitably provoking him to run away from me, or fall back, hoping his instinct to find the herd will guide him to safe pasture without my intervention. The first thing I saw on the other side of our now cowless pasture was a child’s swing set. A slide, a little ladder, and brightly painted primary colors. I quickly felt the potential danger and sprinted after Dr. Kimble. The hunt was on.
Chasing a running cow through a suburban neighborhood, across driveways, and past dogs, is not something you can really prepare for, or probably understand from reading this story. Mid-sprint, I took a mental note for the next time this happens that I should first sprint back to the barn for some sort of cow treats and a bucket, ‘cause out here in the real world, I had a very hard time convincing the scared steer I was on his side.
In somebody’s front yard, and with three dogs screaming in the nearby window, Kimble stopped running. Stopped, without ever taking his eyes off of me, and caught his breath. I did the same, and considered my few options. The man whose dogs were barking came outside to investigate the commotion. There I was, sweating head to toe, panting, and pointing to the cow with a shushed finger pressed to my lips. The man asked if I wanted a rope. I did. Despite not knowing how hard it would be to catch him with a rope, or how dangerously fast he would be moving whenever I was close enough to strike, it still felt good to have some sort of “tool” at my disposal. I was somehow less helpless with that rope in my hand.
I could tell Kimble was thinking about running again, so I slowly circled to his front, cutting off the open woods, and instigated another chase back towards the property. It was gonna happen anyways, so at least I chose the direction we headed in.
These sort of cat and mouse shenanigans continued for about twenty minutes. People came out of their houses, ear to ear smiles, some with a camera, some in their underwear, to watch the guy and the cow sprint by. On the fly I instructed a few standerbys how to stand tall--arms out--and cut off obvious escape routes for Dr. K. I finally hit a stretch of houses that bordered our property, and everything changed in a moment. I recall hopping through some sort of perimeter fence line, but when I returned to the scene of the crime, I couldn’t quite decipher exactly how we had reentered the farm.
The two of us emerged from the wooded suburban development and found ourselves jogging through a waist high grassy field. The chase was over, and we were running together, side by side. For the first time neither of us seemed concerned about the other. Blanketed by the raging high noon Georgia sun, a disorienting and overpowering light tunneled my focus to nothing but the most immediate moment—the swishing of the tall grass against our legs—and with this noise so intensely in my focus I became awash with good feelings. Out of this spiritual energy emerged the herd, just ahead on the right. The good doctor and I, calmly in tandem, had returned.