When cows get out, 911 calls a rancher
September 5, 2018
"Call 911, call 911!" The gray bearded man in the small pickup shouted out as he drove quickly past me on the shoulder of the road. He must have seen I had my phone. He did not know 911 calls people like me when they get calls like this.
Started out I was upstairs bare footed in the shower reading instructions on how to install a new rain-type showerhead. Tools at the ready when I hear the front door bell buzz and buzz, then pounding. Not knocking, full blown pounding like someone using a closed fist beating the door.
What the heck? I run down the steps, the showerhead can wait. Opening the door I see a young man with a bit of growth on his face. Some kind of fire insignia on his shirt. Is there a fire near? The young man loudly announces, "You have a cow out on the road!"
With his arm outstretched index finger pointing west he says, "Over there!"
Well now I could have a cow on the road but I doubt it. Mine are close up in the fields by the house. My bull is known to go on walkabouts. I don't think it's one of mine. It could belong to any four different folks who run cows out this end of the valley. But cow etiquette says if you are told about it you are responsible for taking care of it. I thank the man, shut the door, find my running shoes, my phone and head outside.
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I try calling three people I have numbers for. Call Failed comes up each time. I try texting. Message failed to deliver, four, five, six times. While my phone is uncooperating I quickly check the barnyard shop area for any pickup trucks, telltale signs there is a cowboy in the area. No trucks. I jump into the spouse's fairly new Mazda and head out toward the highway. West then south, since I saw the fella heading north when he drove off the ranch. He must have passed the cow south of the ranch house.
I drive slowly down the road. Light traffic for a Saturday morning, thank goodness. About a mile down the road I see a black bulge in the grass. I spin the Mazda around and the cow's head pops up. Black-white face, blue ear tag No. 29. Nope not mine. But I found it. I try a few more calls, texts. Nope, it is just me and 29.
I get out of the Mazda thinking to head her down the fence until she finds the opening she came through and back into the field she came from. Nope, she says, she is going to run into the middle of the road. And traffic is everywhere now, moving fast. I don't want her hit nor do I want anyone in a vehicle hurt. I put the Mazda in the middle of the road. Being the spouse's I don't see the flasher button easily and no time to hunt it down 29 is on the move. I have to stop her.
Traffic slows way down when there is a wild haired lady in the middle of the road waving her arms at a big black cow. Thankfully the cow is more afraid of the big camper stopped. Vehicles lined up for over a mile north and south. This is when the man in the pickup whizzes past on the shoulder of the road shouting for me to call 911. I want to throw my phone at him because it was as useless as a rock to me right then. But he was too fast.
Motorcycles slow but rev their engines. Not much help. Now I have been in the middle of the road holding traffic for some minutes. Vehicles are stopped as far as I can see in both directions. No. 29 decides she does not like the desperate wild haired lady and swings her head left then right, then does a full turn and runs to the east side of the road. With momentum she jumps the fence into a field of cows, where I learn later she had come from.
Got the Mazda out of the road, traffic passes. Heading home see a white pickup driving slowly down the road. Drive to meet it and ask the driver if he is looking for a cow.
"Yea," he says. "Got about eight calls on it." Another person 911 calls when cows get out.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.