Youngsters these days are getting into more trouble, making more mischief, and creating more headaches for me than any time in the past thirty years – and I have proof.
We have lived in the same home for the past 30 years. Our house sits in the very middle of an 80-acre cow pasture, which necessitated the installment of concrete cattle guards at both the entrance to our driveway and another set at the entrance to our yard. In those 30 years, the only times (maybe a half-dozen) that mature cows or bulls ever crossed over the structures were when it was covered with deep snow and, until about three years ago, it was a rarity when young calves would cross over the guard into our yard, or out onto the lightly traveled county road by our house.
When those first calves caused trouble three years ago, I solved the problem by gently coaxing them back over the same cattle guard they had jumped to escape, and then unleash the fury (maybe that’s a bit strong) of our trusted cow dog, Bernie, who would gleefully chase them, until she became bored…usually about a 100 feet. But that seemed to work – for that year.
The next summer, two calves kept getting out on the road and grazing the right-of-way every afternoon and no amount of dog chasing would teach these young hoodlums respect for boundaries. Eventually, to the chagrin of my wife, I hung a wire cattle panel across the length of the cattle guard, secured by two strands of baling twine. Judy was livid that I had “uglied up” the entrance to her home and I’m pretty sure she cursed me every time she had to get out of her car to open and close the flimsy panel.
Last year, when three of the little trouble-makers could not be taught to stay at home and Judy nixed the idea of another cattle panel, I even went to the trouble of capturing those calves and their mothers and swapping them with three other well-behaved pairs from another pasture. It was a lot of trouble to do that, but I calculated that it was cheaper than a divorce. This year, however, was the worst.
Starting in April, at least a dozen calves in this pasture began by jumping the cattle guard at our yard fence. If they had just come in to graze the lawn and deposit some organic fertilizer, I might have been able to overlook their misdeeds, but they felt the need to make enough laps around the chicken house to wear a path and then run through the wife’s garden like a 60s style protest march. Even more calves joined the nightly assault on the county road, to the point that the right-of-way was grazed shorter than my pasture and I got on a first name basis with the deputy sheriff. Finally, I had to install gates at both guards – nice gates… with hinges…and latches… and cost money.
I sold that group of calves today and I won’t miss them. I don’t know if their behavior was due to a vegetarian diet, the use of drugs, lack of supervision by their parents, or the simple breakdown of societal cow norms, but I’m hoping that next year’s generation stays at home – and out of the yard.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’