Owning a farm does not make me a farmer. I have two brothers; one is a farmer, the other is not. This is mainly about the one who is not. None of us lives on our Tennessee farm.
Yesterday morning, my brothers John and Larry (the farmer who was visiting from his almond ranch in California) went to the farm to load John’s four cows to take to the auction market nearby. The rest of us went along to observe and also to visit a friend who lives “down the road” from the farm.
John had hired a cowboy to help round up the cows. This man helped last year and knew that one ornery heifer had evaded them then; he was determined to load her on his truck this year.
By the time we visited with our friends and got to the farm, issues abounded. The ornery cow had not only evaded the lasso, but she had escaped from the field and was running loose somewhere. He knew the general direction. But once she wasn’t contained, the cowboy called for backup in the form of two other cowboys who came riding to the rescue. I felt like I was on the set of some old-fashioned western movie.
Meanwhile, John had been chasing the cows toward the barn in his Ford SUV. Yes, in case you didn’t catch that—his car. Now even though I haven’t lived on a farm for 52 years, I could have told him that situation was a formula for disaster. But he didn’t ask me, his older and wiser sister, who has 25 years of cow-chasing experience. Instead, he chased the cows across the open field in his car and hit something not visible from the driver’s seat—a stump or a hump or a clump of something immovable. (No boulders in that field, so that theory is out.) Of course since he’d stopped to open and close the gate to the field, he hadn’t put his seat belt on, so when his force hit the immovable object and stopped, his head did not. It slammed into the windshield and he wrenched his shoulder. For a few minutes, he saw stars and was disoriented, but he pulled himself together, got out of the car, and went after the cows on foot.
About this time, Steve and I arrived. Quite a scene! We saw the cowboy lasso one cow and bring her down, then lead her to the truck. He said it was harder this year because he didn’t have his five-year-old son on the other horse to help out. The lad couldn’t come this year because he, grudgingly, had to go to school. Really.
Here you can see the cowboy and his reinforcements heading out to find the renegade heifer. In the foreground, John and Larry are concerned about the liquid dripping from underneath the car.
After we’d left for lunch, the three cowboys found the maverick down the lane by a house on another road, the house where we’d grown up. It took three of them to hogtie her and then they had to take the truck there to load her. What a day! But the three amigos were happy to finally meet the challenge and ship her off to be sold.
John was relieved because he was constantly getting texts and calls from the neighbors about his escapee. We asked if she’d ever had any calves, and he said he was pretty sure not. “The bull could never have gotten close enough to her!” he replied. “Everything spooked that cow.”
He bought coolant and tried to drive the car home, but finally, since the radiator was completely empty, he had to park it and call a tow truck. Fortunately, Larry and Nancy had a rental car to pick him up and take him to the parking lot where his wife had parked while she was at work.
And all of this was after his daughter had accidentally taken the keys to this car to New York. And after he had been stranded in pouring rain at a Kroger parking lot because the remote on the key he had didn’t work. He’d finally managed to get the car started—another long story—and on the way to the farm had stopped at Batteries Plus to buy a battery so the remote for his car would work. They actually have a third car, a fun little Miata, but it was already in the shop for repairs.
My own farming is limited to paying taxes on my part of the farm and smiling when I see the direct deposit or get a check in the mail from a crop. Occasionally I’ll call the farmer who is handling our crops and have a brief chat. Otherwise, I’m just glad to own a part of a farm my ancestors began farming over 250 years ago.
And to have no cows.