Dad had a saying he liked to use whenever the unexpected happened on the farm. We heard it a lot as the unexpected was closer to the norm on our farm. For the simple one or two surprises, he’d say “Well, it’s always something!” For the big ones — like when the cows got out in the corn, the tractor broke down and the hay got rained on — he’d say, “Well, if it’s not one thing, it’s six!”
I thought of him last night when I almost got done in by the unexpected. I do evening chores at dusk, and all the animals know this and are quick to let me know if I am late. Rosie, the mother of four very excitable border collie pups, always leads the way. Border collies are an incredibly smart, intense breed of herding dogs. On Mr Ed’s Farm, they are the barnyard monitors, and they believe it is their duty to keep everyone else in line.
Last night I headed for the Morton Barn, the largest barn with most of the animals including the sheep, goats, llama, a dozen rogue chickens, a few shy barn cats and a pair of three-month-old calves named Vinnie and Joe.
Rosie and the puppies waited anxiously for me to open the door so they could could go ahead of me to check everything out. The instant I cracked open the door they rushed in, disappearing into the darkness. Before I could snap on the light all heck broke loose. Sheep baaing, chickens cackling, dogs barking and snarling. Before I could utter the words “What the —- “, two brown figures came charging out the door. The Jersey boys had busted out of their pen! Seeing the light, they decided to make a break for freedom.
With a pack of border collies in hot pursuit, they raced across the yard toward the driveway. They may have made it too, if it had not been for that patch of ice. No one had told the juvenile escapees about “the wipe out”. Whoosh, down they went like a professional motorcyclist laying down his bike on a slick road. Time stopped for a brief moment as I and the dogs stared at the Jersey boys in their comical positions. Seconds later they popped up, tails flying through the air they headed off full speed in another direction.
The freedom run went on for another ten minutes or so back an forth across the yard, around the corner to the horse pasture where the eight large draft horses had gathered to see what the commotion was all about. When the horses saw two brown figures racing toward them, I think one of them yelled “Bear!” as they instantaneously snorted and wheeled around, heading at a full gallop for the far side of the pasture.
I did what a farmer must do when the animals go wild. I rattled the feed bucket and waited. It wasn’t long before the Jersey Boys decided to forgo freedom for supper and followed me back to their pen.
With the excitement over, I investigated the root cause of the problem. As usual, farmer error. I had secured the gate with a piece of baling twine which the boys had chewed through. Desperate times require serious action. As any responsible farmer would do, I got a piece of haywire and fashioned a hook using my pliers which I keep in that special pocket in my bibs. The Jersey boys will have to do better next time to get the best of Mr. Ed.
Hey, anyone seen my pliers? It’s always something!