On a day like today, huge blue sky overhead and not a whisper of a breeze, summer seems eternal. There is nothing to stress about.
Our 22-acre spread, dappled with oak groves, is surrounded by dozens and dozens of other 22-acre parcels, stretching among the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Half a century ago, huge ranches here were subdivided. Dirt roads were put in, and folks who wanted privacy took up residence.
Some neighbors have horses; some have goats and sheep. Some run cattle.
Because only one house per parcel is allowed, we feel like we live in the middle of nowhere.
Ours is a quiet place. We don’t hear cars or trucks or tractors. The daily sounds are from wild creatures: birds singing to one another or the scolding chatter of gray squirrels.
Sometimes, when I’m working in my office, I hear deer wandering by. Despite their graceful appearance, they’re a noisy lot, crunching through dried weeds and twigs with careless abandon.
The other afternoon, I heard an unusual amount of noise. At first I thought it was deer, very clumsy deer. But as the sound grew in volume and intensity and I knew it was not deer.
Then a loud, long MOOOOOOO! filled the air. Cows!? Were there cows on our place?
So often around here cows escape their pasture and end up wandering down the roads or up the driveways, mooing forlornly, until their owner comes with a truck and trailer and hauls them back home.
The last thing I wanted was a bunch of cows stomping around, leaving cow-pies to attract flies.
I stepped out onto my office porch and saw a sight that will stay with me forever.
Walking beside the old barbed-wire fence at the back of our property, was a line of really big cows. Now this fence stretches along the edge of a manzanita and oak forest. On our side of the fence is cleared hillside with a few oaks here and there and my office.
I had no idea that someone who owned parcels behind ours was running cows, but here was a long queue of big bovines – black, white, mottled and chestnut, some with horns, some without – and they were walking single file, heads down, just talking to each other…going who knows where.
I wondered if the big, black lead cow was saying, "I know a secret passage out of this place. Just follow me."
I watched them march in step, tails switching casually in the heat. Such huge animals and yet so calm and purposeful. Then the idea came to me that it might be nice to pet one or two. I wondered if they’d let me.
So, from the top of my stairs, I said, "Hi, Guys!" and all those cows froze, petrified. They raised their heads and stared at me with eyes full of terror.
And then as if on cue, the entire herd freaked. They ran in all directions – into the fence, into each other, into the woods. Mooing and running and crashing in total panic. Their big bodies, like bulldozers, knocked down small trees.
I stood amazed! Although I couldn’t see them once they ran into the woods, I could tell where they were going by the trees that were toppling.
When Sweetheart Al got home that evening, I told him about the stampede. He walked up to the weak and saggy fence, shook his head over all the downed trees.
Then he looked at me with a grin, and said, "You have all the fun!"
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