The head count this morning came up three calves short. Then, I heard bawling in the distance. *Sigh* I knew it was Princess Bonny squeezing through the fence once again. But this time, she took along two of her subjects.
These three eight month old calves have really been joined at the hip since birth. They faced halter breaking, vaccines, ear tagging, tattooing and de-horning as a little herd within a herd. They are the calves that always have that feral teenager look on their faces whenever I check on the cows. Like I almost caught them doing something that would have earned them detention.
So, there, on the other side of four strands of barbed wire, in the wild Florida woods, stand Princess Bonny, her Lady-in-Waiting, Cloe, and her gentleman friend, Arnold (steer). There is familiar look of complete innocence in their eyes, as if they woke up and were magically on the wrong side of the fence. Of course, it's on the morning of the day from he!! when I have far more errands to do than a normal day would allow. My toddler just looks up at the errant calves and sighs from his stroller. I apologize to him and roll him out into the pasture adjacent to the miscreants. At first, I squeeze through the fence, rattle some alfalfa pellets in a day-glo pink bucket set aside just for these occasions, and hold it open for Her Highness to step daintily through. But today, for reasons known only to the mind of an eight month old calf, she refuses this solution and resumes pacing and bawling with her minions. *Double sigh*
There is a gate through about an acre of thick brush and trees. Now, in a normal state of the Union, this is a bit of a challenge, perhaps requiring some forethought, but here, in the wilds of Florida, the word 'wild' should conjure up pictures of snakes, alligators, and spiders-as-big-as-dinner-plates. Not to mention fire ants, flying roaches, and stick bugs that spray acid into your eyes. Pleasant early morning trek while wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes (all was I doing was going out to feed, right?). I glance at my boy in his stroller happily watching the cows and calves from the neighboring pasture. He is in a nice shady spot free of vermin and wild creatures. The rest of the herd has now congregated nearby, perhaps taking bets as to the probability of my success. I look into the wild brush and see only about four feet in. The calves, attracted to the day-glo pink bucket with alfalfa pellets, stand sniffing hopefully. I look at Princess Bonny and call to her as I plunge into the wall of shrubbery. Her Majesty follows carefully. Branches break around me as I whack out a path for Her Highness and Her Royal Court to pass. A small branch sticks up four inches in front of Her Royalness which causes her to hesitate, so I retrace my steps and break it for her. She reluctantly follows along with her minions. It was then that I hit the first WEB. Now, I know what you are thinking. "Come on, cowgirl up! It's just a spider web, fer crying out loud". No, gentle reader. In your neck of the woods it is a spider web, but here, in the wilds of Florida, it is a massive collection of titanium strands whose keeper leers hopefully at any helpless creature who is stupid enough to blunder into it (me). After frantic swiping with my trusty stick, the BEAST retreats reluctantly. I turn back to the calves, put on my best reassuring smile; ignoring the creepy strands of WEB now hanging from my hair, and shake the bucket. They glance behind me at the glowering BEAST and potentially lethal WEB strands dangling from my person and stop. Okay, more spider dueling is apparently required to satisfy Her Highness. Brandishing my trusty stick, I back the BEAST off and whack at the WEB until the path is clear. Finally, Her Highness is apparently agreeable. At this time, I hear rustling off to both my left and my right. Thinking happy thoughts of butterflies and sweet little ladybugs, I try hard to ignore the sounds and pray that Florida's more sinister natives are not lurking just off the trail, waiting patiently to take a nice chunk out of my bare leg. Another WEB appears in front of me and it's resident shakes a leg, threateningly. I shake my stick back and it retreats like Dracula before the morning sun. I can feel hot breath on the back of my legs and hear what I hope to God is the movement of ruminants behind me. I turn slowly and see three naughty calves huddled behind me with big eyes looking at me like, 'I really hope you know where you're going'. One last whack with my trusty stick and daylight pours in! The gate is just ahead.
After a grueling fight with a rusty chain, I open the gate into the pasture and present the Royal Court with a lovely open pasture. They stop. I sprinkle alfalfa pellets on the ground and wrestle the gate open wider, grinning like a used car saleswoman. Finally, they relent and Her Highness returns to Her Kingdom. Moments later, my son and I watch the happy reunion of calves with the rest of the herd. A job well done.
As I am pushing my son's stroller back to the house, I realize that I am covered with leaves, grime, remnants of spider battles, and a little royal cow poo. I make the mistake of glancing back at my bovine charges. The three delinquents are huddled together, surely planning their next adventure.
I just need a shower and to find a way to remove WEB from my glasses. *Sigh*