There was a rare moment one day last spring when I was able to eat lunch at my desk. My normal duties in the tractor had gotten me worked far enough ahead of the planter that I had a few extra minutes to spare. Actually, I was able to look at lunch near my desk, because that's when my cell phone rang. It was a neighbor who frequently hunts turkeys, deer, mushrooms and anything else that's in season, in my woods. I figured he wanted to head to the woods.

"Jeff, does [another of our neighbors] have cattle?"

Yeah, I think he's got some in his feedlot.

"Well, there's a black heifer on the bike trail, and I'm guessing somebody's not taking her out for a walk. I wasn't sure if she was yours or not."

Hmmmm. Interesting. Cattle walking around at will and his default assumption was to call me. Oddly enough, the spot where the escapee was sighted was right where I left my tractor. I suppose it looked like I had abandoned it to go chase cattle. I thanked him for the call and told him I'd be on the scene shortly to see what was up. Lunch would have to wait.

I got on my four-wheeler and headed out the driveway. That's where I met a passing motorist who had slowed down. Turns out we're related, and he wasn't stopping for a quickie family reunion. Nope, he was there to give me a report on the neighborhood free-ranger. His eyewitness report pretty well matched up with the cell phone call moments before. I thanked him for his help and told him I was headed toward the crime scene at the moment.

As usual, it was good to know that loose cattle were automatically associated with me as the source. C'mon, people!

However, as I headed through the field, I did seem to recall a sight the previous morning when I walked out the door and was greeted by a handful of steers near the end of my sidewalk. They had managed to push a gate open that had failed to be chained shut when I bedded them with cornstalks . . . about two weeks before. See what a wonderful life they have? Free access to the outside world with only minimal effort on their part and it takes them two weeks to work up the initiative to make it happen. Why not relax in cushy conditions as a full buffet is presented each day for their enjoyment? It's like they're living in a spa! I should have that on a big log arch over the driveway as you come in the yard like the big ranches out West do. "Welcome to Guy No. 2's Donner Spa!"

Those escapees were put back in the feedlot and the gate was securely fastened. On my way back to the buildings for seed later that morning, I noticed another steer freeze in his tracks as he walked past a building near my lawn. He was probably thinking, "If I don't move, he won't see me." It was straight out of an Abbott and Costello prison escape movie. I stopped to put him back in and realized that 11 other individuals were standing on the wrong side of the bunks when I went to open the gate. Where they had hidden earlier in the morning was beyond me, but two of the non-Angus steers were in the second group. Their absence from the first crowd shot should have told me I didn't get them all, but since no one else went more than 100 yards, why would I think a dozen more would have gone to the other side of the buildings and hidden in the arbor vitae windbreak?

Thinking about that as I headed through the field on my four-wheeler to check out the latest escapee, I began to wonder if maybe, just possibly, this one could be one of mine. Both eyewitnesses said she looked a bit agitated and hyper. Maybe she was a lone wolf who made a break for it and found a nice blacktopped trail to freedom. Of course, if she's a heifer, I was more interested to see which one she was so that I could congratulate myself on NOT keeping her as a replacement female for the breeding herd. We can't be propagating genetics like this, can we?

I got up to the bike trail and didn't see any cattle running free. A slow trip west gave me the opportunity to look through the trees and brush to make sure no beasts were hiding in there, waiting to come out later after I was gone and make me look bad. Everything looked good. Then I drove up to the highway to discuss the situation with someone who thought the loose one was mine. What can I say? Established trends are hard to break.

That's when I looked west and saw a lovely sight. There on the horizon, way over in the next county, was a black heifer being followed through a field by a four-wheeler. It was my neighbors' son Joe! I got over there and we managed to get the renegade near the feedlot. She looked winded, but she didn't look familiar, so I was satisfied.

As she walked past the bunks toward the open gate of a pen at one end, all of the other feedlot occupants lined up to watch her do the perp walk. She was soooooo busted as she did The Walk of Shame in front of her contemporaries with her security detail close behind.

Helping Joe reminded me of the night of his brother’s wedding when their cattle escaped and several members of his wedding party spent much of the evening chasing down cows (see http://farmindustrynews.com/jeffryan/0811_emergency_call ). As we closed the gate behind this new fugitive and put her back where she belonged, I looked at Joe and said, "This isn't so bad in the daylight. But it’s probably more fun in a tux, isn’t it?”

He just laughed.

Guy No. 2