After a summer of long languid dusty dry evenings, it’s time to pay the piper. We wake up in the dark; we drive home in the dark and the rain. Nick is no longer confused as to why vampires are said to exist peacefully in Washington. He’s taking Vitamin D now to battle his constant desire to cuddle up in his Snuggie™ and go to sleep at 7:30.
The endless rain and the resulting mud had gotten so miserable I let the cows out of the pasture. I was worried Gnatalie wasn’t eating because her little legs were too short to walk up to the hay feeder. The weight of the bigger boys churned the earth so deeply I was afraid she might get stuck or break a leg in the mud, so I let them roam around. I figured at this point Gnatalie was sufficiently part of the herd and the boys would take care of her.
They seemed to really enjoy their renewed freedom, drinking from the pond and trotting around the property. One moment they’d be by the creek eating peacefully and the next they’d be across the pasture for no apparent reason. A few nights ago the boys and I came home and had just finished putting the barn animals to away and when we noticed there in the dark not more than a few yards away were Abe, Andy and Gnatalie. They’d bed down in the Kubota barn. Three enormous mammals were all lying there and we none of us had seen them nor felt their presence.
“What if they’d been cougar? We’d be dead. Dead I tell you. Ripped to shreds! What THE…” Nick started.
“Nicky is right they are ambush predators.” Henry interjected. I too was amazed we could have missed animals their size even in the darkness. It was unnerving, but their quiet gentle presence made me think of the serenity of the Nativity. Entranced I walked over and couldn’t resist joining them. Henry, Nick and I chatted with them, pet and snuggled them. It was a magical kind of moment, and then we bid them goodnight and went in the house.
(Gnatalie looks at Nick while she gets a little snuggle)
The next few days, they bed down by the house. They seemed to be enjoying the company of the other animals and our comings and goings. We looked forward to seeing them, until the night the pesky equine, Edward and Miracle happened in like the mafia. They came in noses down pushing our docile friends aside, intent on taking over the territory. Gentle souls, Abe, Andy and Gnatalie gave up their beds and moved back down to the pasture bells clanging as they went.
Tonight, when we got home, Henry hopped out of the car to open the gate and found a note thumbtacked to the latch.
Scrawled in blue cursive was “I think I have your cattle at my house. I am just on the other side of the pipeline rd. from you. Call me – Dave”.
“Someone has our cows?” I blurted to the boys.
“What? They’re gone?” Nick said shocked.
“Well, I don’t know, I mean I saw them the other day, but we leave in the dark and then we get home in the dark, I guess they could be.” I reasoned.
“The bells, listen for the bells,” Henry said sensibly. We rolled down the windows, but all we heard was the wind blowing the leaves off the trees in the forest.
“Have you ever noticed the wind in the trees sounds like a rushing river?” Henry asked.
“I have noticed that and at times. A few times I’ve really thought it was the sound of a river. It’s kind of amazing. I don’t hear any bells. Do you? I think they really might be gone.”
“What the hell. The cows ran away from home? Gnatalie! Where’s little Gnatalie?” Nick worried.
“She’s probably with them they’re a herd now,” Henry assured him.
My stomach churned as I dialed my neighbor Dave’s number. “Hello? My name’s Denise and I understand you might have my cows?”
“Yeah that’s right. I think they’re yours. Two big guys and a little one?”
“I used to drive past your place everyday on my way to town before the bridge closed so I was pretty sure they were yours. One of them, the one with the bell.”
“Well, Andy broke into my pasture last night. I heard the bell. It’s a good thing you have the bell because I heard it and wondered what the heck it was. I went outside with my flashlight and saw him. He’d broken the fence to get in my pasture to be with my cow and her calf. The other two were just sitting on my lawn. I’ve never seen such friendly cows in my life. They just like to be pet and that little one. I just want to put her in my pocket.” He said with a laugh.
“That’s them alright. I’m so sorry about your fence.” I said feeling terrible and wondering how I was going to pay for Andy’s escapades.
“Oh that’s ok I fixed it. Now how you’re going to get them back I don’t know.”
“Well, my biggest problem is when. I think I can get them home, but I just can’t go over and do it in the dark and I have to work.”
“That’s ok I can keep them here and we can work it out this weekend.”
“Really? That’s so nice of you. I can bring some hay by.”
“Nahh, that’s ok I’ve got plenty of hay and I like having them around. The little one is playing with the calf, Tucker.”
Well, thank you. I’ll give you a call and come by on Saturday morning then. I don’t know exactly where you are. I’ve never seen your house.”
“That’s because I’m a mile back in the forest. It’s not hard to find, but I’ll better direct you Saturday. Otherwise you’ll end up at my brother-in-law’s place.” As we hung-up I couldn’t help but chuckle.
The phone rang, “What’s going on?” Tom asked expecting what I don’t know, but I assure you he did not expect.
“Gnatalie and the boys ran away from home and are having a sleepover.”