(prompt: ‘confidence’ 3/1/2020)
“Oh boy. Here they come. This should be good… ?” Ridiculous… don’t be stupid, I told myself. And myself answered, Yes, but… they’re cows, and cows hate change—even if it’s in their best interests.
Despite earlier curiosity when we began the new fence, our milkers had accepted it was OK to see us working there daily. But today was different. Today the gate was open to the new ‘race’ (a long walkway), along the top of each paddock, leading to the dairy. Today there was an electric fence each side.
We knew the solution to the ‘stock breaking out and getting into the crop paddock’ was an electric fence. Our wallets (and our bank statement’s boring focus on red figures) solidly dictated we grin and bear the almost daily disasters, and apply more patches to the patches of what we wishfully called fencing.
We dreamed it and sketched it, time after time; pored over suggestions in magazines and planned some more; which paddocks to connect, how to afford it… AND all those gates? At last, the ‘switched on’ day was happening as the ‘girls’ met the new beast on the block. In time, they would develop a strange knowing or sensitivity to whether it was ‘live’, by putting their noses up close without actually touching the wire… but no such confidence existed on this initiation day.
At first, they all bunched up into an impossibly small, tight group, refusing to take the first step into the unknown. The sheer force of numbers pushed the first shrinking violets into this no-man’s land. With widened eyes, they approached the wire—up to a hair’s-breadth away. Whether the first cows to have their shocking experiences were nudged by the cows behind, or chose their fate, the reaction was identical.
“A massive bellow… that was first.” Kanute still laughs, though the thought of touching an electric wire with a wet nose IS a bit ‘shuddery’. “And their eyes rolling back so you could only see the whites. Looked like they’d gone blind!”
“… or insane,” I add. Can’t help myself, now I’m laughing too. A few of them licked the wire to be sure! “They looked completely crazy when they hung their great tongues out of one side of their mouths—and managed another huge bellow. Like demented creatures in the throes of a Shakespearean death scene.”
“… and then they charged down to the bottom corner of their paddock, kicking their stupid bloody heels from side to side, with us shouting to them, “STOP! You’ll waste all your milk.” Now Kanute’s laughing helplessly. There’s something so ridiculous about a mature cow capering about like a calfie. The worst part was the rest of the herd also charging about, despite having no idea what had happened. The bellows of the first victims had said IT was ‘bad’—and that was enough for the rest – they were believers.
I was not laughing when I had to round them all up again. This time however, I was able to shut the paddock gate behind them before each cow had to check it out for herself—not once, but three times! With a repeat of the demented drama each time, also.
“They were buggers to get back through the race that night,” Kanute says with a frown. But then he grins, “… but they never touched it again. Not once!”