Pastor Bill expressed some disappointment that I haven’t blogged about a funny incident that happened earlier this week. I don’t blog about every little thing, particularly the ones that are EMBARRASSING and make me look like a complete ditz, and also “funny” is such a subjective concept, but I suppose this story is blogworthy by association with larger events. So.
I guess it really begins in March, the day before the kids and I left for our Disneyland trip. It was a Sunday, and after church we drove out to the Trinity pasture like we always do to check on the cows. It was a chilly day and the kids wanted to stay in the car, so I hiked off into the pasture alone to search for The Mighty Herd.
When I found them they moved off like they always do, but I had time for a head count. I came up one head short: the smaller of my two yearling steers was missing. And his mom was hollering for him at the top of her lungs, all wide-eyed and disgruntled.
I waited for him to hear her calling and wake up from his nap somewhere and trot out of the brush, but he never did. Very odd. He was a year old or nearly so; too big for coyotes to mess with. Besides, there was no sign of vultures or ravens or any others of nature’s cleaning crew. But if he was anywhere in the pasture and able to respond to that bellowing from his mother, he would have.
So I had a missing steer. Had someone stolen him? He was still small enough to load into a pickup truck; a rustler wouldn’t even really need a trailer for him. The pasture gate was locked and supposedly the only two people that have keys are me and the Trinity caretaker, but Steve could have easily made himself another copy before he gave me his. I had had a rather difficult week with Steve, so this possibility presented itself fairly easily to my mind. He has friends who could put a fat steer to good use, most of whom wouldn’t trouble themselves much about where it came from.
On the way home I called Steve as usual to tell him that I’d be dropping the kids off with him in a few minutes. I mentioned the missing steer and asked if he knew anything about it, and he said no. Then I said that I’d have to make a police report about the incident and he completely FREAKED OUT. Started yelling about how hopelessly crazy I am and blah blah blah, and generally making himself look very guilty. So I told him that I’d be out of town for two days with the kids, and maybe the steer would find its way home again while I was gone, and then I could be spared the trouble of getting the police involved.
The following Wednesday I went back to Trinity to see if the prodigal steer had returned. But this time there were vultures, and his body wasn’t hard to find. Or his skeleton I should say; he’d been completely cleaned out by then.
So now I was left wondering: what had happened here? An act of nature? An act of spite? There was no way to know for sure. I decided to do nothing for the time being, because it’s not unheard of to lose a yearling steer to a pack of dogs or a cougar or somesuch. But this was the first time it had happened in all the time we’d been keeping cows here, and I resolved that if it happened again I would go on the legal warpath.
About three weeks ago the first calf of spring arrived. I started going out to check on the herd two and three times a week, to keep an eye on the rest of the moms-to-be and to make sure that nothing had befallen the new baby. A week ago I got there and found two pickups parked right next to the fence. A search of the pasture didn’t turn up the owners, but it did turn up a newborn calf, the second arrival. I took photos of the new calf and the slighter-older calf, and — just to be on the safe side — the license plates of the two trucks. Then I drove back to the church, where Luke and Elizabeth were rehearsing for a spring performance with the kids’ program. When the rehearsal was over we drove back to the pasture just to put my mind at ease.
The two trucks were gone. And so was the calf, apparently.
My mind was not put at ease. I was in fact Concerned.
The only reason I didn’t call the police right then was because the new mama wasn’t hollering. She moved away from me and rejoined the herd, but in a nonchalant sort of way. So, okay. They like to hide their calves for the first few days. It was probably fine.
I went back the next day. Missing calf still missing. Mama’s udder very very full. But still no bellowing or any other sign of upset. Decided to give it a few more days.
Didn’t get out to the pasture the following day, but the day after that I was in town for my weekly counseling session with Pastor Bill. When we finished talking I told him I had to head out to his neck of the woods to check on a calf, and asked him if he wanted to see The Mighty Herd. He said sure, and followed me out to Trinity.
The cows were grazing near the fence, and the missing calf was right there with them, dozing near its half-sister. Whew! We walked over and admired them until they got restless and started to move away, and then I did a quick head count.
“Eleven,” I frowned. “There should be twelve.”
“Which one’s missing?” the Pastor asked.
“I’m not sure…it’s probably one of the cows off calving somewhere. Let me get to higher ground…” I jogged off to a little hill, but didn’t see any other cows.
“There’s only twelve,” the Pastor pointed out when I got back. “Can’t you just immediately know who’s missing?”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Let’s see…white cow’s here, half-Watusi’s here, Luke’s cow, Elizabeth’s cow, the two black ones…you know what? See that big rock over there on that little hill?”
“Way over there next to that big manzanita tree. When I stand on that rock I can see the whole pasture. Feel like taking a walk?”
“Um..not really wearing the right shoes for this, but…okay…”
Off we set, me going over and over the roll call in my head. About halfway to the big rock I stopped in my tracks, absolutely mortified.
“I…ah…forgot to subtract for the steer that died last month. There are only eleven.”
Embarrassing? Oh yes. But WAIT, there’s MORE!
So we get back to our cars, and I reach for my keys which are clipped to my belt loop.
Somehow the snap has failed me and my keys have fallen off.
Somewhere in a 150-acre pasture that we had just wandered all over searching for A Phantom Cow.
Oh yes indeedy.
I told the Pastor that he should just get back to his busy schedule and I would find the keys, but like a true gentleman he insisted on staying to help me look. It took a while. While we were searching, Trinity’s caretaker showed up to make my mortification complete.
We did find the keys though. So, you know, yay. Happy ending, I guess.
Yeah, this is one of those stories that never would have seen the light of day if there hadn’t been witnesses. With some sort of misguided affinity for Full Blogging Disclosure.
Let’s all move on now.