The call came in at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Five cows were seen near the golf course that adjoins my farm. It was serious. Cattle could destroy the grass.
Except cattle tend to avoid golf because there is nothing to eat. What? Yes, cattle love the grass, but not the golf course variety. The grass is more like astroturf, not tasty for cows. Besides, it’s too short. Cattle like tall grass, unlike golfers. Thus, gardeners keep the grass cut close. In the past, a single farm escapee walked the golf course, but it was mid-winter and the ground was frozen and invulnerable to hoofs. The owner was angry, but no damage was done.
But this time might be different. The call came from a farm friend, Diane Hersey, who relayed the message from her friend who lives next to the golf course. Was the whole herd outside, or was it just a few calves? Without details, my husband Bruce and I had to act fast, so we grabbed a bucket of alfalfa cubes and a lead rope and jumped on the ATV. With the dog Flora at the running point, we headed through the pastures to the side road to the golf course.
Thirty years ago I sold land to Bill Crowley, the designer of the golf course, so he could extend the course to 18 holes and build houses overlooking the links. Here and there I recognized a rocky ridge or ledge that was once part of my farm, but nothing else was familiar to me. The old fields now contained buried sprinklers spitting water onto manicured lawns that climbed up to McMansions and immaculate flower gardens. This subdivision might have been removed from a suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, and seemed out of place next to my farm, where pastures rule and lawns get no love.
We didn’t see any cattle on the course so we looked the other way. I waved at a car and a truck, but no one had seen the escapees until I found Kathy Whedon standing in her yard.
“Yeah, I saw the calves. They were all small and one of them looked like an Oreo cookie. There were five of them in my yard,” Kathy said. “When I opened the back door, they all ran away.”
Phew, I thought, just delinquent calves looking for adventure – not big cows with big hooves. We checked Kathy’s garden, but the rogues were gone – back to the pasture and their mothers, we found out later.
Last week, those same calves wandered into my under-construction flower garden knocking over pots. They had widened their range, seeking adventure elsewhere. Our fencing is no match for the determined calves, so I expect them to escape again, except someone else will have to find them this week. Bruce and I are time travelling. This is my 50th meeting at Principia College, a college for Christian scientists in Elsah, Illinois. It’s time travel because we forgot we’re in our 70s. We remembered college football games and nights out at the local restaurant, but we also celebrated who we have become. We are not just a group of old people, but adults who have written books, become famous or not so famous or even sailed around the world. One thing is sure; we have all made a difference.
I hope the calves decide to stay put, but if they don’t, who can blame them? What a joy to be young and carefree.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com) in Loudon where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local produce. She can be reached at [email protected]