I wrote the other day about one of the times we’ve had unwanted cows get onto the property. This used to happen with disturbing regularity, until we—slowly, belatedly—learned our lesson. When we’re home, the gate is closed. When we’re not home, the gate is closed. Unless there’s someone actually passing through the gate, the gate is closed.
It took a while for that to sink in. I am not sure how many times we’ve had to chase cows off the land. It’s a special challenge in the dark. The fields are full of mesquites and cholla and other pointy things, not to mention the snakes and whatever else might be out there during the warm months. But when you’re trying to herd cattle, on foot, you don’t have time or inclination to watch where you’re stepping. You have to be watching the cows, to make sure none break away from the herd and try to dodge you.
I think the occasion that finally taught us was one that happened when we weren’t even here. We had a housesitter, who got sick while she was here. A friend came to visit her, and left without observing rule #1 of cow-country etiquette—leave the gate the way you found it. Our housesitter was inside, feeling poorly, and didn’t notice the wandering beeves until it was too late. The phone call began something like, “Do you remember that spigot that used to stand beside the house?”
Cows had come so close to the house that one of them had knocked it right over. Water was shooting up out of the ground. The earth was turning into mud, and we had deep hoofprints on that side of the house for years. She was able to get it fixed before we got home, and we haven’t had cows quite that close to the house since.
Now we leave the gate to the back pasture open. That pasture is fenced separately from the land around the house, so they can go back there and graze all they want without damaging anything. We kind of like having them visit from time to time. But we’re no longer inviting them up to the front door.