Robert Frost said that good fences make good neighbors, but it’s bad fences that test their worth.
Flash back to last week. My birthday was Wednesday (25, decrepit), and I took some friends on a little farm tour. One of them said, “I didn’t know you guys had cows.” And when I looked up onto one of our hillsides, I saw six or seven of my neighbor’s beef cattle, looking very pastoral.
I called my neighbors and left a message. “Your cows are here, but no worries, and if you need a hand herding them back, I’ve got a bunch of people here for a party (of questionable sobriety. I might have left that part out).”
I didn’t get a call back, so when I got up Thursday morning and my hillside was cowless, I figured my neighbors came and got them in the middle of the night.
When I mentioned the cows to my dad, though, he was far less relaxed. My neighbors are in Idaho for the week. And when we went up to the hill to see where the cows had gone, we saw them scattered around the 30-acre field—the entire herd, about 30 cows.
Superstar working student Nicole and I formulated a plan—walk the fenceline, find the break, repair it, and then grab my family to herd the cattle back through the most accessible gate. But when we came back to our hill, having found the (very significant) fence break, the cows were nowhere to be seen. And that’s because my well-meaning but slightly misguided parents and their very charming and useless dog, Hunter, scattered them into the trees.
Quoth Scooby Doo: “Ruh Roh!”
We got the fence repaired and left the cows alone, and they eventually made their way back out into the open, where they will be corralled when my neighbors get home.
And now, flash forward to this weekend. I was driving the trailer I borrowed for Devon back to its owner, and when I rounded the corner, there were three horses in the middle of the road. Three bay geldings, in good weight, with halters, roaming happily along.
I managed to herd them into a nearby paddock, with no gate; fortunately, another neighbor saw the trouble and caught up to help. We jerry-rigged a gate out of some construction material, called the Sheriff’s Office, and in ten minutes we had a flotilla of help. Wow!
The horses are home safely now, and the cows are on their way. What I’ve learned from all this: know your neighbors! And make sure they have all your numbers, home, work and cell. Having the Sherriff’s Office’s phone number on speed dial isn’t a bad idea either. And it goes without saying that good fences are a good plan, too.