Cow Catching 101

Cow Catching 101.


April 20th, 2012.  Normal morning.  I believe I made Pete Pancakes, bacon and eggs for breakfast.  We had an enjoyable morning at home, and were ready to tackle a typical Friday on the farm.  Little did we know that this would not be anywhere near a “typical Friday.”

Pete had said that he wanted to stop at our newest rental property the Greak Farm and move the cows water tank.  We had, just the weekend prior, moved 17 yearling calves to this rental.  They loved it here.  The owner Sheri Greak loved them!  She’d talk to them every morning, had them eating apples dipped in their mineral out of her hand!  These were her friends!  Pete had not had enough wire to their paddock in the night prior, so they could get back to the other previous paddocks and to their water tank; no big deal they’d be fine.  So we arrive at the Greak Farm.  First thing I notice is that all 17 of them are huddled back in the far corner of the field.  That’s not typically normal, normally they are all laying around or munching on grass in other parts of the yard.  Pete and I headed into the field.  Pete starts walking towards them, to get them out of the far corner and to the area they should be in.  He gets about 10 feet into that field and they ALL get up in unison.  He continues walking and they bolt!  It was the fastest run of any group of cows that I’ve ever seen!  They ran over the hill and through the little wires that I had been holding and since dropped.  I could no longer see them, but I assumed they just ran to the other corner of the field, no big deal.  Pete heads after them, walking to the crest of the hill.  I see his hands to go his head and he turns and RUNS towards me!  He ran so fast!  He got within shouting distance and said “The cows ran through the fence, get in the truck! Get in the truck!”  I too ran for the truck and hopped in!  “What do you mean they ran through the fence?” I asked.  “They did, they must have jumped over and I saw the last one skirt under it.”  {This fence now mind you is normally electrically charged but we turn it off when we go into the field.  It is 3 lines of high tension wire. }  So we head off in the truck through the field that the cows had been and Pete loosens the tensioners  on the far side so that we had an additional door.  We drove on a dirt road that goes way back through the woods behind the field.  No sign of cows.  Pete decided to head into the woods and look for them with their mineral bucket in hand while I went to the farm and got Tim and James.  I left with the truck and got the boys and called my pastor for prayer support.  I called Tim at the house, and he said that a neighbor of the Greak farm had seen them behind his house!  I doubled back, got Pete and we both got the boys and then headed to that neighbor.  From there I was sent to go check the house phone to see if anyone else had called.  I called our pastor who had offered his assistance, and told him that we’d like his help along with anyone else he could bring.  He quickly told me he was on his way!  I called my dad asking for prayer support and my old pastor from my parent’s church.  With the prayer support flying I headed back out to find my team.   We all met up at my house and Pete grabbed his topographical map (from 1986) and our set of walkie talkies.  We decided that our best plan was to get with our team that was arriving and walk the gas line that ran through the woods.  We headed back to the farm and I called Anna and Mrs. Burns to tell them what was happening, they would be home in about 35 minutes.  When we got to the farm we got with Pastor Jesse and Dylan and they divided into teams to walk the woods.  We scoured acres of woods that day.  Pete and Pastor Jesse walked along the waterway Maxwell Run for miles and Dylan, James & Tim walked the gasline.  That day we only found a hoof track headed into a field and speculated where they had been.  We thanked our friends for coming to help, wishing that we had at least seen the cows or more signs of them – even a cow pie!

Saturday we did the same thing we had done the day before, we searched those woods.  We went down trails leading to odd places and ending up in new ones!  We hunted all day long.  As evening fell we had divided into teams and were about to gather together.  Pete and I were in our car and were driving down the end of Middletown Road when him mom stops us and another man gets out of the van with her and Anna and Tim.  He was a camper who had seen no more than 9 of the cows behind his camp.  He said they looked like they were trying to get home.  He said they just moved right along, heading off into the woods.  With this cow citing we were energized!  It was getting dark tho, and so we headed over to the field they had escaped from.  We were walking along the gravel road when Pete spotted something on the road.  It was getting dark so we asked so shine our flashlight onto the item in question!  It was a COW PIE!!  We had finally found one that looked remotely fresh!  Hallelujah!  We were so happy!  It was getting later and later, and I was exhausted so we headed home.  Sunday – We headed off to church like normal, not knowing exactly what the day would hold.  After we got home we ate lunch and our friend Hank brought his 3 kids over to help too.  They had brought more walkie talkies so now we had 6 going! The men studied the map and we had our heading and headed off into the woods.  We fanned out into an area and all started walking through the woods.  We searched.  We found a few hoof tracks, a man made pond and some other random things but no cows.

On Monday we decided to just wait for a phone call about the cows, cause we knew that there was no real use just running through the woods with no heading.  Pete had gone to get saw dust with our intern James so it was just myself, Mrs. Burns and Tim at home.  Mr. Burns had gone to take Anna back to school.  We’re all doing normal Monday tasks when the phone rings and it’s someone who says that a group of our cows is down near the Halton Canoe Launch!  WHAT?!? That’s quite a hike from where they were last seen!  I immediately called Pete and the 3 of us who were home jumped into the van to go see if we could find them.  The only problem was, in order to get to this location we had to cross over the Clarion River.   We were driving along when we spotted them across the river (on the proper side) from us!  I was so excited!  Tim and I got out to keep watch on them and Mrs. Burns went ahead to turn the car around, see if there was any way to get over there besides hiking miles, and to call for assistance.  My cows were there, right in front of me!  I could see them!  From what I could see there were 4 of them.  It was raining so they looked just miserable, but they were grazing on the grassy bank of the river.  I could see the one that I called Coco and 2 Herefords, and 1 highland with big horns! I called out to them saying “Hi Guys!  Hi Cows!”  They almost immediately stopped eating and climbed up the bank and started walking.  I was worried now.  Where was Mrs. Burns?  Where was Pete?  What was I going to do?!  Tim and I decided to follow them along on our side of the river and keep tabs on them.  They walked into a grove of thick trees and didn’t come out the other side.  We assumed they’d stopped there.  Along comes Pete barreling down the road, the back door of the stock trailer he was towing swinging wildly as he approached.  He got to us, we told him about the door, he realized it had rusted through and was now unusable until fixed, and we told him about our hiding cows.  He determined that since there was no way to get to them, and since we hadn’t seen them in a while that we best just let them be there and we’d come again if they were spotted.  We went home half discouraged and half excited.

Tuesday morning we were again all together at the farm house going about our normal day to day activities when we got a phone call.  Someone had seen 7 of them along the river near Halton.  (Near where they were the day before)  Pete and I took the truck and the ATV that Hank had loaned us and followed behind the team who was walking down to the river on foot.  It was about a mile or two hike down to the river, but being on the quad helped so much!  We got down to the bottom and took the quad as far along the river as we could before we decided that it’d be best if we went on foot.  So here was the 5 of us, bucket of mineral and reel of polywire in hand hiking along the river.  We walked for about 2-3 miles along the river.  Finding cow tracks, cow pies and grazed grass all along the way.  We knew we were on the right trail!   We had gone about 3 miles when we looked up a head of us and saw the cows!!!  We all saw the cows!  They were perfectly happy – grazing along, but they were still moving!  What on earth made these cows think that they wanted to keep walking along the river instead of stopping to graze at the beautiful banks of the river we had no idea!  Now we had to make a plan.  Where were we?  What to do now? How would we get these cows somewhere where we could load them onto a truck?  Pete decided to hike up the hill beside us and try to get some cell service and that we all should just follow them at a safe distance and he’d catch up with us.  James and Tim went ahead with a walkie talkie, Mrs Burns and I had a walkie talkie, and Pete had one too.  I – being 6.5 months pregnant was quite slow.  I had to use the bathroom and was just trying to keep up with Mrs. Burns.  The boys had long gotten out of eye sight but we knew they were around.  We kept moving for about a mile or so more.  The grade of the bank got so steep at times I was holding onto branches as to not fall into the river.  And the cows walked all of this!!  What were they thinking??  We crossed through this open area that was where the gasline went from the woods and into the river and kept moving on.  After about 500 feet more Tim and James come back towards us.  They said that they lost the trail and couldn’t find the cows.  We had had our walkie off but they told us that they had been in contact with Pete and that he had been able to get cell service and call his dad to come with some sort of trailer.  He was coming to meet up with us.  Suddenly we hear “Cow Alert! Cow Alert!  They are just up to the left of me up the hill!”  What?!?  We had just been over there and hadn’t seen them!  They had been in the woods the whole time!   Pete, James and Tim took the mineral bucket up into the briar thicket that the cows were in and slowly started moving them down.  Mrs. Burns and I had taken the polywire and made a fence on the other side of the trail so they wouldn’t cross.  We decided to try and walk them back to that gasline and see where that led.  The cows were skiddish, but they liked the mineral we were giving them so they obeyed.  We got to the gasline with them and started walking them up it.  It was about a 70 degree slope mind you.  We formed a U shape box around them and herded them up this gasline hill.  That was the toughest part for me.  I had to maintain my corner, keep up with the group, and climb this steep steep hill!  I also now REALLY had to go to the restroom!  I was so winded and yet determined to do it, yet I was huffing and puffing up this hill.  Pete was worried for me so he handed his front spot to James to maintain and came back and took my place so I could climb at my own pace.  How sweet of a husband I have.  We crested the hill and they kept walking.  The gasline is about 20 feet across and they liked walking it so we just kept on walking with them there.   Now that we had them calm and on an open area the question was – where are we?  (For the readers who are wondering if I was ok -I was able to excuse myself for a few minutes to take care of my business) We got the cows to a place that had big puddles of water and lots of grass and was near a road (we didn’t know where it went) and fenced them in.  We took the poly wire reel and wrapped it around the trees making a big square two wires high.  Tim, James, Mrs. Burns and I all took spots on either side to keep the wires at appropriate heights so the cows wouldn’t go under them.  The cows tho were quite content.  James rolled over some cut logs and we all sat down.  By now its 2:30 in the afternoon and we’re all very hungry and very tired.  Pete left to go try and hitchhike back to the farm and borrow a friend’s stock trailer and maybe find his dad.  We had our 7 cows all rounded up.  They were quite happy; they eventually all laid down to chew their cud.  We had named them all by now- Big horn, No Name, Coco, Mini Gimp, Little Horn, Blackie and Herford.  Big Horn was the mean one, she’d push anyone out of her way that she needed to and was quite stubborn, MiniGimp was quite compliant with the wire and a good calf, and the others were just ok.  By 3:30 help had arrived. Pete and his dad came in the big van with a box of bread, peanut butter, jelly, water and apples!  We all ate happily!  Our friend Curt was coming with his stock trailer to help us load these guys up!  What a joy! We had a few issues getting these ones loaded (Big Horn was a trouble maker and Blackie wouldn’t go on for the longest time!) we were ready to go!  Pete and I took them back to the rental that they had been at and Sheri was ecstatic to see them again!  Our 5+ mile adventure to the world of Halton was done!  Now to find the other 10.  Wednesday came and we did normal activities.  Pete and I were leaving our Bible Study (35 min from home) at around 8pm when he got a phone call saying that all 10 were spotted behind a neighbor’s house near his cows.  Pete knew that he couldn’t get there fast enough to have daylight to work with so we headed home.

The next morning at 6:30am Pete, myself, James, Mrs. Burns and Tim all met at this guys house and went into the woods where they were seen.  Apparently they walked around his yard, ate some of his hay and then just meandered into the woods behind his house.  We walked into the woods and started looking for tracks or signs of them.  We had just about given up hope when I found a cow pie!  We kept on the trail and found a few more.  Then the trail went cold.  We split up and started walking around.  Pete and I said we’d check out this open area above us and the rest of the team was heading out.  Pete is ahead of me and he says “I see them!  They’re right there!!”  I grabbed the walkie and hollered into it for the team to come back.  They couldn’t hear me!!!  Pete gave me the walkie and said that he was going to take the polywire and try to hedge them in and I was to get the team!  I walked off and finally got a hold of them and they were coming our way fast!  When James got with him Pete was able to get them contained for a bit, but they didn’t see the wire and ran through it and ran through it.  He was so frustrated!  By now it was approaching 9am and we had to get ready to head to Pittsburgh for deliveries!  We had seen them and knew about where they were but still couldn’t catch them!  Thursday night we all decided to walk along this hunting road that ran behind the neighbor’s farm.  Our Pastor and his son came over to help us along with another local neighbor Ron. Along that road we found cow tracks and cow pies!  It was great!  Sadly though, it was getting dark fast.  We decided to hike out of the woods and try again tomorrow.  Thank goodness Ron knew his way around the trails or we would have never gotten out of the woods that night!

Friday came and we headed out again.  This time in the area across from our house kinda.  Back in those woods was where we had seen them.  We divided up, would see the cows and they’d run away from us into another part of the woods.  This went on for hours.  We hiked in along Maxwell Run again. (I enjoyed walking in the water in my MuckBoots!) I love my muck boots! I love them so much!  That afternoon Mr. & Mrs. Burns had to leave to go away for the weekend so our searching  crew dropped to just the 5 of us: Pete, James, myself, Tim & Anna.  Then Hank showed up!  We were so glad to have him with us too!  We continue tracking them and found a heavily grazed area along the high tension power line with lots of old and new cow pies – this was where they had been for a while!  We all walked ahead on the line and then tada – We spotted them all laying down relaxing.  We decided that Pete would go ahead with the mineral bucket to try and entice them to follow him and we’d all stay out of eye sight so that they wouldn’t scare. Anna and I are praying our hearts out that this would work and that the cows would come.  We watched Pete till we couldn’t see him anymore.  After a bit we got up and saw that he and the cows were gone.  We found him a bit later down in the woods. He said, quite discouragedly, that the cows were not scared but highly aware of him.  They would let him only get so close before they’d move again.  We decided to head out of the woods.  Hank wanted to walk out a different way to try and track them but we all headed out.  Pete and Anna walked to get the vehicles we’d left while James, Tim and I went to walk along the road to be picked up by them.  James had walked ahead of Tim and I.  A truck pulls up along side me and asks if I am a Burns, he said that our cows were about to come out of the woods right… then!  I look and there they come!  I hollered down to James and threw Tim into the back of the guy’s truck.  He drove Tim down to the cows.  The cows were in the middle of the road, some across in someone’s lawn!  The coming truck though frightened them and they bolted back into the woods!  AAAHHHH!  They were there! And then they were gone again!  Tim met up with James and they kept on walking and I waited for Pete to come.  I told him what had happened.  He was glad they were spotted but sad that there was nothing we could do to catch them.  Anna and I made dinner for Hank, Pete, James and Tim – PIZZA!  As Hank was leaving, around 9pm, he comes running back into our house saying that the cows are lying in the field across from my street!  THEY ARE SO CLOSE!  Pete decided to go to the farm and get some wire and try to fence them in.  “I’ve gotta try!” he told me as he walked out the door.  He came back about 20 minutes later with such a sad look on his face.  “As soon as I walked into the field they got up and ran into the woods.”  He sighed in dismay. “At this rate Tara, we’re never going to catch them.”  He was so down.  I felt so bad.  “You can’t say that.”  I said  “Pete, remember, we serve a MIGHTY MIGHTY God who created those cows and is going to bring them home!”  “I know Tara, we just get so close, and then they run away.”  “It’s going to be ok!” I told him.  I felt so bad that he was just so sad.  I gave him some homemade pudding and had him just chill on the couch with a movie.

Saturday morning started our daily tasks.  Pete and I had to go get some stuff so we were out and about in the morning.  Later that afternoon we’re over the farm house when a phone call came.  It was our neighbor Linnea, she said that our cows had gotten intermixed with her brother Curt’s cows that morning and that he had them in his barn!  The cows were found!  All 10 of them!  PRAISE THE LORD!!!  We were ecstatic.  We called our friend Curt who had the trailer and we hauled them back to where they belonged the following afternoon.  We split them up a bit, putting 12 of the yearlings with 2 older mom cows down at the Greak Farm and putting 5 of the yearlings back at the home farm.  That way the mom cows would keep the young ones calm and not scare so easily.  All cows were found and back to where they belonged.  When we added it all up we as a whole had hiked about 35 miles that week through woods, along rivers, through creeks, and along hillsides.  What an adventure!  8 days of hunting cows!  I can’t wait to tell my child about what happened the summer I was pregnant with it!

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