Watch out for that cow!

Cow foraging along Cemetery Road.
Every autumn, a few cows (typically two mamas and their ever-growing babies) are left loose to chew down the grass and other plants that grow along the side of Cemetery Road in New Meadows, ID. In the six years I've been here, it has been an annual occurrence along Cemetery. They're there for a week or so.

They don't spook easily; they rarely bother to stop eating as you pass by in your car. The dogs enjoy getting an up-close look and smell as we slowly drive past.

In the Payette National Forest, cattle graze freely all summer, especially in the section just above my house. They follow no particular path, although frequently use forest roads in their meanderings. If we drive a few miles into the forest to access a nice dog-walking spot, we often come upon a small group grazing along the shoulder. In the forest, however, as soon as they see the car approaching, they start running up the road - away from the car, in their minds, which is exactly where the car is trying to go! The young cows seem to think it a bit of a game, bucking and nudging each other on, while mamas - worried about their babies - try to keep up. Eventually, they'll make a 90-degree turn off the road and into trees. Maia especially thinks this is a great game and watches intently out the window.

Bulls don't move. If they're standing on the forest road, chewing their cud when you drive up, you wait until they decide to let you pass. I swear they're as big as my Tribute, and take up so much room that you can't pass around them unless they want you to.

On evening walks with the dogs last July, when the cattle had just recently been set loose the graze in the forest (snow finally melting out), we frequently encountered them. For the girls, it was rather ho hum, having seen cattle up close during the years we lived here. For Finn, it was pretty exciting. It was a good opportunity to work on his "Leave it!" and "Come!" commands. If they stand still and munch foliage, he ignores them, but if the young ones start to run.... He can't hurt the cattle, who are used to being herded by dogs, but the cattle could easily hurt him.

Of course, it's not uncommon at any time of year to see one or two escaped cattle along Cemetery Road or any of the other side roads down in the valley if they've gotten out of an adjoining field. Or - spring or autumn - seeing an entire herd of cattle being slowly moved down a road by people on horseback or ATV, with one or two border collies or Aussies to help, from one pasture to another. Leaves quite a mess of cow shit on the road, which my car tires fling onto the undercarriage and mud flaps as I drive through, giving the dogs something wonderful to smell the next time they get into the car.

[Aside: While here in July, I drove the road to Brundage Ski Mountain shortly after a herd of cattle had been moved along it to access forest grazing. The usual amount of fresh cow shit ended up on the undercarriage and sides of my old Tribute. As soon as I returned to Washington, I attended a writers' conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Bellevue. Very high end hotel. I grinned inwardly every time I parked my car next to a nice Mercedes or BMW in the underground garage, traces of Idaho cow shit still evident.]

I've learned to keep my eyes peeled, especially at night, and slow for the ruminants along Cemetery Road each autumn. It would be awful to accidentally hit one with the car.

I'm thoroughly enjoying noting the vast differences between life in the suburbs of Seattle, and here in rural Idaho. It keeps things interesting, for me and the dogs, bouncing back and forth.
Rebecca WallickComment