Houdini is at it again!
by Brent Gill
March 20, 2006
I thought the hole in the fence had been found, and fixed. The little bull finds another one!
The "corner of escape" is right behind the big oak stump. The opening into the 2.5 acre pasture is on the near left.
The way-too-loose wire gate, which allowed the bull to get out.
The "office" from the "corner of escape"
On a beautiful morning in the Southeastern Tulare County foothills, I was sipping on a hot cup of coffee, as I walked out the front door of my home to enjoy the beauty and peace of what has been created for us. The field in front of the house, has Old Momma, an aging, toothless (or at least badly worn-down) Hereford cow enjoying being the only adult animal on a 2.5 acre green pasture. Her buster of a bull calf, now about three months old, runs in with Old Momma. Together they are helping me raise an orphan heifer calf. She is just over twice his age, but because life was not kind to her in the beginning, the calves are almost exactly the same size. These three cattle provide me with an unending source of entertainment and pleasure, observing their actions.
Several times the calves have gotten into the yard through a spot where the fence had pulled away from a Blue Oak tree, just enough to allow a curious calf to squeeze through. And I can definitely assure you that these two calves are curious.
My wife and I have three grown sons, and a total of five grandchildren, comprised of four beautiful young girls, and one buster of a boy. My experience of raising my boys, and of watching our grandchildren when we get to see them, relates strongly to the actions of these two calves. One little heifer, who has many characteristics and habits of my granddaughters. And, a real buster of a bull calf who reminds me so often of my boys, and my grandson.
A young friend of mine came this weekend, and fixed the spot behind the Oak tree so that the calves would stay where they are supposed to be, in the pasture with Old Momma. The two calves have become good friends, usually within a few feet of each other at any time of the day. So, I was interested to note that the two calves were off by themselves in a corner where there is a wire gate, but were well away from Old Momma. That in itself is not unusual. Calves and kids often do things that way, and yet knowing a little of the personality of these two calves, I noted with interest that they were in the corner by the gate, sniffing around.
I turned away to proceed with my morning activities around here, and when I looked back, one of them was outside the fence, on the other side of the wire gate. And, I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that it was the little bull who had found a way to get out. The little heifer was now acting a little disinterested, and obviously was refusing to join him. By actions and movements it was obvious to me that he wanted her to join him in his escape. But, she was having none of it.
Watching him I was reminded so strongly of my three strong boys. Each one a stubborn, hard-headed creature infused with testosterone. Now where they got those traits, I cannot imagine.
He was obviously pleased with himself, to be outside the fence, someplace where it was apparent that he knew that he should not be. The two sniffed noses, and then he bounced away, obviously urging her to join him. In typical little-girl fashion, she turned her back on him, and walked a couple of steps away from the corner, appearing to ignore the foolish bull calf. She dropped her head and nipped a few bites of green grass. Not to be outdone, he also nipped a few bites. Then raising his head and looking right at her, he was pointing out to her that his grass, outside the fence, was so much more tasty, and surely much more green.
She was the very picture of “little girl ignoring big boy” attitudes and actions. She grazed away about twenty feet ignoring him, while he pretended to ignore her, apparently. He walked away ten feet, going north up along the fence, and then almost as if he knew that he surely was not supposed to be out there, he dashed back to the corner, bouncing and kicking. She refused to look back at him, though I got the feeling that she knew every move he made. Does any of this sound like children you have watched?
Several more trips up the fence to the north, each time a little further away from the corner. She continued to ignore his actions, and grazed a little further from the corner of escape, though still nearby.
Fascinated with their actions, I got out the binoculars, so that I could see them both a little better. Inspecting the corner and wire gate from the warmth of my kitchen window, I found a spot in the wire gate, that the adventurous little bull had pushed hard enough to get through to the outside. When she had been standing near the corner, it was quite apparent that she knew where the hole was, but steadfastly refused to join him in his indiscretions.
He went through a series of trips up the fence to the north, and then would come running back to the corner, but now with a different reason. First, the heifer was ignoring all his efforts to attract her attention, and she was continually grazing further and further away from the corner. She was getting very near the opening which would allow her to go down into the 2.5 acre field where Old Momma was ignoring the whole scene.
His actions now took on a degree of desperation. He could not find the loose spot that had allowed him to get out, for it was not right in the corner, but about six feet north of the corner. In typical cattle fashion, he would go stick his nose into the corner, then turn and move back up the fence-line to the north, going right past the slack hole.
He would move off to the north nearly to the corner of that small field, then dash back kicking his heels up as if to say, “Man what great fun I am having!” But his movements belied his true feelings. Several times as he got to the furthest north point of his walk, he would bawl in a tone that expressed his concern and frustration. He was a little boy in trouble, and he was getting a little scared.
Finally he went to the corner north of the gate, and turned down the hill to the west, disappearing from my sight. In a moment, he appeared again, rounded the corner, dashing back to the gate. Every movement expressed his concern, for now the heifer had walked through the opening into the 2.5 acre pasture, and had made a running, bouncing, kicking dash into that field toward her adopted Old Momma cow. Now that was something that the little bull knew full well that he should have been able to participate in, making a joyous circle around a part of the pasture, as they often did together. But there she was, doing it alone, and he was now thoroughly upset, and outside the fence.
Once again, he disappeared down the fence to the west, out of my sight. As I suspected, though, it was not long before he appeared. Now he was back inside the right field, so obviously he had found another loose spot, or made a new one! But, he dashed across the knoll, through the opening, and with his tail in the air, made a dash toward the heifer. She looked up, almost disinterestedly, as if to say, “Oh … you came back?”
He immediately dropped his head, and started grazing peacefully, as if he had not really done anything at all. If he keeps this up, I may get all the weak spots in my fences tightened up.
The comparisons between cattle and children are absolutely amazing. It does make one ponder whether the cattle are emulating the children, or the children emulating the cattle. Or, carrying that just a bit further, one might wonder if this type of activity is “hard-wired” into young creatures, male and female just slightly different.