This incident happened more than 12 years ago, but my neighbors still remind me of it from time to time.
It was way past midnight before I finally came home from another bovine adventure. I had checked my heifers at about 7:30 that evening before I came in and everything was fine — their waterer was good, they had lots of pasture and the electric fence was hot. About 9:00 a phone call came in announcing that there were cattle on Highway 9 and someone thought they were mine. Probably not, I thought, but it's possible. I jumped back into my clothes and headed out to check.
Since it was dark and I had to make time, I jumped on my Mule (an off-road utility vehicle). As I sped down the road I realized that only one of the two headlights on the Mule was working. This would not be a problem, because as I approached the scene of the sighting, I realized that there was plenty of light.
Unfortunately, it was a combination of red and amber flashing light.
Part of my roundup had been completed. There on the shoulder of the highway was the carcass of a heifer — laid out flat and not moving. On the other side of the road was the carcass of a Dodge Omni — laid out flat and not moving.
The deputy sheriff walked up to the heifer and looked at me as I drove up beside it.
"They're mine," I said.
"The rest of them headed that way. They're up by that corner," replied the deputy as he motioned toward Cresco.
I looked around for injured motorists and, in the absence of any, sped off to find the herd. More law enforcement was stationed near the herd, controlling the burgeoning traffic jam of cars. All these motorists were out of their vehicles trying to direct my herd off the highway. I weaved through traffic and told the crowd to let the herd take whatever opening they had. The herd opted NOT to follow the bike trail next to the highway that would return them to their place of origin. Instead, they opted to go into my hay field and see where that would lead them.
I ditched the crowd and went in pursuit of my herd with my dad following behind me. We practice a great deal of soil conservation here in Winneshiek County and, as such, we have an elaborate system of connected waterways woven throughout the fields. I guided the herd through these waterways and through the maze of maize for almost two miles before we reached our destination and got back to a pasture.
The deputy pulled up shortly after I got the herd into their pasture. I asked if anyone had been hurt and he said that no one had. They had been buckled up in the Omni and that saved them. The car, though, had been totaled. He asked if we needed help getting the heifer off the road. He said we could just leave it on the shoulder and the rendering truck would pick it up the next morning. We informed him that we would get it off the shoulder right away and move it home…where no one would see it.
Unfortunately, the herd did not have a total herd instinct. Three different individuals decided to go it alone along the way. Since it was dark, foggy and there was no moon, we couldn't find them after searching for about two hours. The search continued at daybreak. Fortunately, the incident did not turn into “The Renegade Revisited” before it was all over (see “The Renegade,” September 6, 2006).
I bet people who live in the city never have days like this.
Guy No. 2