Houdini and The Cohort in Crime
by Brent Gill
February 28, 2006
Today's View From The Office Window
Mom, her bull calf (L), and the orphan heifer (R). "What are you two doing out there?"
"OK, now! You two get right back in here!"
This morning it is raining off and on here in the foothills. The grass has a very special green color, a very vibrant green, right after a good watering. There are even some early wildflowers peeking their noses out. I call them Snowdrops, but have heard them called Popcorn Flowers, too. But, they are small (about little fingernail size) white blooms that grow about six inches tall. They can actually turn a whole hillside white, so you can imagine how many there are.
One of my cows, her bull calf about 2 1/2 months old, and my orphan heifer who is about 4 months old, have been enjoying the warm rain. The heifer, whose mother died the very night that I told my wife that the calf was eating Calf Manna and “…would make it on her own now”, was actually laying down in the wet grass while it rained on her last night. Even though there is a barn on the south end of the field, and a shed up next to the house, where I supplement them, they were all standing out in the rain, either grazing or laying down. Obviously, their idea of what is comfortable, and mine, are widely split.
A few weeks ago, I looked out the “office window”, to find the heifer standing on my lawn. I eased around her, opened the gate, and with a little slow moving around, got her back into the pasture with no problem. I thought at the time, I was going to have to fix that fence somewhere, or she would be back in. I didn’t, and she soon was! In fact, the very next morning, she again appeared on the lawn, merrily applying her own brand of fertilizer.
I again eased her back into the pasture, and as it was Friday, made plans to go out first thing Saturday morning and find that hole in the fence, and patch it.
The next morning, I found what I thought was probably a spot she might get through, and added a post, stapled it all down, and tightened it up nicely. Another spot got a piece of wood screwed to a post, to create a tight fence, and I went back to the house, very proud of myself for being such a great rancher.
All went well for at least two weeks, me chuckling to myself about curing that leak in the fence, and the cattle all staying in the pasture where they belong. Oh, life was indeed good on the hilltop.
Two days ago, I was busily making calls here at my desk, and movement out “The Office Window” caught my attention. Of course, it would be no surprise to you to know that I was once again looking at the heifer on the lawn. Good golly, how did she get back in here? Gate open, calf out, and the gate once again shut securely, I went back to work.
I took a trip along the fence to the two spots I had fixed, and was quite satisfied that nothing was going to come through there. So, I walked the remaining section of fence, and could really not find anything to show me where she had gotten in.
One clue that is often found is a little hair on the fence. Particularly this time of year, when the winter coat is getting loose and about to come out, making way for the slick summer coat underneath, it does not take much to leave a little “hair of the calf that got out” on the barbs or sharp edges of the fence. Looking carefully all along I could not find anything. It was all very strange.
So, there was nothing to do but to wait until she came back, and see if I could find anything then. Needless to say, I did not have long to wait.
The very next morning I looked up to find not only the heifer, but the little bull, both strolling around on my lawn. Even though it still has some brown in it, and their pasture is growing up beautifully green, the lawn attracted them. I suppose it is probably a lot like our own children, in that sense. What is forbidden is always more fun that what is not. Or, if I can, I will. Of course, our children never acted like that!
Regardless, here they both were. I went over and opened the gate, eased around them, and with no problem put them back into the pasture. After all, the heifer had done this now three or four times already. No curiosity about what the gate is for now.
With both calves in at the same time, I realized that the hole must really be pretty big, and I would surely be able to find it. I walked over there immediately to see what I could see. The first two holes were still secure and tight, so that was definitely not the spot. The next segment up to a gate was tight and secure, and that was not the site of the Houdini trick either.
I walked up to the gate, and looked down the fence, where I had looked the day before, and was a bit confused. After all, this was the very last portion of the fence, that could possibly have let them into the yard. It was all still up, no holes were evident, and from all appearances should turn cattle back. But I knew that there must be something I was missing, so I looked more carefully, this time at all the wire.
Hanging from the third wire up, which would be about knee-high, was a little tuft of red hair. Well, son of a gun. There it is. But …. how … what … then I put my hand on the wire. It was loose, but really not that terribly loose. Just a bit of slack in it. But, by pushing down on the second wire, nearer calf height (mine, not the Houdini ones), I could see that a calf, if he or she were stubbornly persistent, might just stick their nose through, and carefully pick their feet up and step over the lower wires, and literally just walk right through!
So, now I have to go to town and pick up what I call “twisters” which is simply a piece of twisted wire, very stiff, that has been doubled, and literally just “screws down onto the fence”. When it is applied, the twists hold the wires in place, and about 3 of them in that section, will fix my hole. Additionally, a good tightening to the wires themselves, will make it once again do what it is supposed to do.