The plains are all awave with grass,
The skies are deepest blue;
And leisurely the cattle pass
And feed the long day through;
But when we sight the station gate
We make the stockwhips crack,
A welcome sound to those who wait
To greet the cattle back:
And through the twilight falling
We hear their voices calling,
As the cattle splash across the ford and churn it into foam;
And the children run to meet us,
And our wives and sweethearts greet us,
Their heroes from the Overland who brought the cattle home.
(Final stanza in Andrew Barton Paterson’s poem With the Cattle)
On a recent Sunday, with Hubs away at work, The Kid and I had a beach trip planned with Bec C and her family. It was a beautiful warm spring day and I was keen to take Jones for his first beach run. It would have been lovely.. had we actually made it.
As we pulled out of our front gate, The Kid commented “look Mummy, the electric fence is down,” And down it was. Broken and flung across the ground. The cattle, who’d been contained within the electric fence were gone. Nowhere to be seen.
I drove, quickly, down the drive, checking the two paddocks and the strip of grass along the drive to which they’d had access, hoping to see 15 happy steers munching on grass as I drove over the rise. But nothing. My heart beat quickened, as did my breathing.
Hubs had left for a weekend of work, he’d left me in charge of our new cattle. For the first time. And I’d lost them. All of them. Gone.
There were so little signs of them, I thought perhaps a cattle rustler had been in the night, loaded them onto his truck and taken them. Surely I would have heard that though? Surely the steers weren’t that good?
I rang one neighbour and (trying to mask my rising panic) asked if she’d happen to have seen 15 steers wandering by? No she hadn’t, but within minutes (I’m not joking, literally minutes), we had 6 adults plus me, 7 kids on motorbikes and 3 dogs, all at our front gate, to help me find the cattle. I wish I’d taken a photo of the gathering, but at the time I was a little too pre-occupied with my predicament to stop and capture the “community moment” on my phone camera. It was a heart-warming sight though, so many people coming so quickly to lend a hand. I thought wow, I can’t imagine this happening in the city, and then I caught myself. I guess I wouldn’t lose 15 head of cattle in the city either. Not much need for a cattle search-party there.
Bec C and her family arrived too, en route to the beach of course. And they stayed to help. Bec C minded the kids and dogs, while her man and our neighbours helped me find the cattle.
In no time, the kids had located them. They were up in my Mum and Dad’s property – the one place I’d ruled out as it meant they’d all had to leap over a cattle grid to get there. Yes, a cattle grid. Who’d have thought? I naively thought they were intended to keep cattle in, or out, as the case may be. Ha. (Apparently they make them wider now. Too late for me).
In hindsight we think something must have spooked the poor things in the night, to make them: a) break through an electric fence (they’ve already had a lot of experience with electric fences and usually know to keep away from them) and b) to jump a cattle grid. Anyway they did. And they’d made their way up the driveway, past Mum and Dad’s house (who were away on holidays at the time, otherwise they’d probably have noticed the strays wandering up the hill), and up into their back paddock, which is about 70 acres of bush, and pretty rugged bush at that.
So the good news was we’d found them. The bad news was the motorbikes had spooked them and despite our best efforts we were weren’t able to bring them home. Overnight they remained in the bush. And I remained anxious.
The next day Hubs returned, and he enlisted the help of a local guy who arrived on horse-back with his 2 trusty kelpies. Because of the rough terrain, even they took a while to flush the cattle out. They finally found them in the hill paddock but over on our side of the fence. The cattle had found a section of fence broken by a fallen tree and they’d wandered on through. From there our musterer and his dogs were able to walk the cattle back down into one of our less wild paddocks.
Phew, was I relieved.
Each day now, we check on the cattle and I’m regularly counting them. I mean regularly. Counting.
I’m pleased to say, that the following Sunday we made it to the beach, no distractions, no hitches, just sun, sand and surf. And as I type this, I can see the cattle, chewing the cud. Safe and sound and contained. (… until next time?)