Some calves are born naughty. Some develop naughty little habits over time. On our farm, I believe we unwittingly groomed a rebellious group of Dexter calves that sought adventure and excitement beyond the confines of their fields. Their dreams were as big as the skies above and no silly, aged, barbed wire fence would stop them. The fence in question is on the leased portion of the farm. It's rumored that the first Spanish settlers in Florida were patching this same stretch of fence 450 years ago. Sometimes the patchwork design, such as in a quilt, will create unique patterns of folk art. Sadly, patchwork fences, with strands of barbed wire from several different manufacturers over many decades, and posts of various shapes and sizes, do not inspire the same sense of awe and charm.
When the naughty calves met the fence, they first showed it proper respect, as one should do to the elderly. However, it wasn't long before, perhaps by mere accident, a weakness was found and exploited. Was it a tasty bit on the other side that caused the first tentative push? Or, maybe a rude shove from an irritated mama cow on a hot day when baby just won't settle down and nap? Whatever it was, it was a significant moment in the herd's history. The calves met in secret, while their elders chewed their cud under the oaks trees, and egged each other on, as youths do. Before long, there were tardy appearances at feeding times as calves wiggled back through the loosened fences to causally stroll back into the herd as if all was normal. They developed a taste for Spanish moss and stole into the woods to snatch some from the trees before coming back to their bawling mamas. These short forays still contained the calves because of the perimeter fencing around the woods.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (ha!) we decided to separate a few of the heifers from the herd, to prevent unwanted breeding by our bull. When the bull realized a few of his herd members were absent, he was certain that we had made a terrible mistake and the only thing he could do to rectify the problem was to climb over the so called "no climb" fence. We found him, the next morning, in with the heifers and politely asking to return to the main herd. We reunited the herd and carefully planned our next move. Meanwhile, the heifers decided to stage another push through the fence and our bull, now sensitive to their absence, pushed HIS way through the fence. Fence staples popped like popcorn as he leaned his weight in between the second and third strand of the barbed wire until the fence sagged like the back of a sway backed horse. Luckily, there was a perimeter fence to stop them from leaving the property, but we were spooked enough to build a bull pen for our bull. He tested the boards for about 30 minutes and then settled down with his favorite cow as his companion. No one ever wants a bull outside of his fences, no matter how gentle he seems to be.
Meanwhile, I breathed a sigh of relief, we patched up the fence, once again, and everything seemed fine until I got THE CALL. All farmers know which one I'm talking about. The dreaded "Your cows are out" call. For reasons beyond my understanding, several of my cows, along with the aforementioned naughty calves, perhaps feeling the desire for salvation, pushed through the pasture fence, followed by the perimeter fence, and invaded the Baptist church yard next door. When I showed up, these lovely people had already returned the wandering beasts to their pasture. An enthusiastic motorist also joined in the fun. Since we go to the Catholic church, I suppose you could call it a nice, ecumenical, moment of loving one's neighbor. We put all the cows and calves into the "time out" corral. Then, the following day, our son and I walked next door with a bucket and manure fork to remove the remains of their visit. We thanked the church members profusely and assured them that we would prevent any future attempts by our animals to stage an impromptu live nativity scene.
The herd is now locked up until we replace the patchwork, folk art, fencing with something more secure.
The bull pen.