Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Free Spirit

Last Wednesday, the dog and I were walking down Blueberry Road rather late at night. We had on our reflective gear and I had a little flashlight clipped to my hip, so we felt safely visible; and besides, it was a stunningly beautiful evening. But as we walked, I heard something on hooves walk out of the driveway on our left, cross in front of us, and pass through the ditch into the field on our right. It was about 20 - 25 feet in front of us, and looked like this:

I'm telling you - freakin' invisible. I tried my worthless little flashlight, but by then it was on the other side of the road and no AAA battery was going to penetrate 45' of thick Wisconsin dark. It sounded much too big (and too calm) for a deer. I thought about moose for a second or two, but as far as I know we don't get them this far south. I finally decided it was probably a large pony or small horse.

I walked up the driveway it had come down, beat on the door, and informed the guy who answered that he probably had horses loose. But he caught up to us on his 4-wheeler a few minutes later to report that his horses were all there, but the guy on the corner had lost a black angus steer. They were still zooming around with 4-wheelers and spotlights when the dog & I made our turn and walked back on the way home 15 minutes later.

When we walked by early on Friday evening, there was a posse (no, really) of 6 people on horseback in that field. Three of them came galloping up to us, freaked the dog out completely, and said the steer was definitely in the tongue of woods edging the hayfield. They gave me a number to call if I saw the steer again.

On Monday morning, I was walking early so as to run a few errands before work. This time when I passed the field there were 4 or 5 guys in pick-ups, including one with a rifle. They'd spotted the steer at dawn, cozying up to the cows pastured on the corner, and called the vet to bring over a dart gun. They'd managed to get a dart into him, but then he'd taken off and they were trying to track him. I walked 50 yards or so further down the road, and actually spotted him heading out of the woods and across the hayfield before disappearing into the corn. (I yelled, they ran over, but it was too late.) They told me Monday night that they never did find the steer before he slept it off and went back to his adventure.

So he's still out there. Part of me thinks he's earned the right to be handed off to a petting zoo or something, rather than to someone's freezer. I'd always understood cattle were not that smart - but this guy has outwitted his owners and a group of their friends for almost two weeks now. On the other hand, an invisible steer is wandering around on an unlit and uncontrolled country road where young drivers routinely travel at truly stupid speeds. (It's kind of amazing how fast some of them go. I step off the road completely when I hear them coming, reflective vest or not.) And Tammy points out that when a car hits a steer, the results tend toward the dramatic.

So, here's to the invisible steer. Let's hope he retires to a nice swamp somewhere in the back woods, away from roads and dart guns and high-liability situations.

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