More Dogs on Main Street
October 3, 2008
This has ended up being a spectacular fall. The leaves seemed to turn a little on the late side, but when they turned, it was as good as it gets. Everything was on at once, and the weather has stayed nice so we could get out and enjoy it. I’ve really savored the fall. There was the trip to Yellowstone, road biking through the park in the early fall colors, dodging buffalo and elk along the way. It was a great time with some long-time friends. We had missed our group bike trip the year before, so it was great to put that back into the schedule.
I had a great dinner with a cousin I haven’t spent much time with in recent years. We were as close as brothers growing up, but have let the demands of adult life get in the way of just hanging out together. He came up to the ranch, and we spent an afternoon hiking to places where we had played as kids favorite hikes, secret forts, swimming holes in the river, a campsite where we cremated tinfoil dinners years and years of great times.
I followed that up with a long hike in the Uintas, hitting a couple of favorite spots on a nice loop. The drive up the Mirror Lake highway was breathtaking. Most of my hike was above the aspen line, in the evergreens, but there was a lot of underbrush that was a brilliant red. It really couldn’t have been better. I stopped for lunch at Clyde Lake on a slab of glacier-polished rock so smooth you could have skateboarded on it. I suspect my great-great grandfather had lunch in about the same spot years ago. The dog gave me such a pathetic look that I ended up sharing my sandwich with her. Who knew she liked horseradish? Then, just for good measure, there are a couple of big, burly mountain bike rides that I like to do every year. I got them both at the height of the colors.
We had a neighborhood rodeo last weekend. It was an impromptu event, and ultimately was not successful. A neighbor has rented his pasture to a guy who has some longhorn steers that seem to be rodeo stock. The owner of the pasture wouldn’t fix a fence if his life depended on it, and the guy renting the pasture didn’t do much with it, either. After a winter like we had last year, the wire fence is mostly lying on the ground. So the cattle wouldn’t stay in the pasture, and kept running amok in the neighborhood.
The owner of the cattle finally came and got them because it wasn’t worth the problem of trying to keep them where they were supposed to be. There were two holdouts. Fugitive cattle. It’s not enough for them to have the full pasture to themselves now. They still make frequent sorties into the neighborhood. Cattle are dumb as rocks, but they know a manicured lawn when they see one. We’ve got a couple of people with the full-lawn fetish in the neighborhood, and these cattle find that perfectly mowed Kentucky bluegrass irresistible. They know exactly whose buttons to push.
It’s been almost six weeks since the herd was moved. So the two who remain at large have become pretty comfortable. There are only a few of the houses in the neighborhood that are occupied all the time. The cattle will move into a vacant cabin and make themselves at home in somebody’s yard for a couple of days, finding shade on the covered porches, chewing on patio furniture, and eating the grass before moving on.
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These are not normal cows. They know there is a bounty on their heads, and they know how to hide. I’ll spot them out my window, and in the time it takes to find my shoes and get outside, they have vanished into the woods. We can go for days at a time without seeing them. They leave their calling cards in the driveway, but the actual cows are invisible. Then they reappear in their proper pasture and stay put for a few days.
But last weekend, one of the neighbors spotted them in his yard. They were in a position that we thought they could be herded along a fence into a corral with a tight fence, and there was a gate in the corner of the fence that would be perfect to herd them through. So he got on the phone and rounded up a dozen people to help. After six weeks of cow pies on the front porches, this was the big stand. We were going to get them.
I grew up around cattle, and while I was never really comfortable herding them around, I understand how it’s done. It’s second nature. It had never really occurred to me that people who didn’t grow up around cattle could be so completely clueless. The plan, which seemed so obvious, was to quietly, slowly, gently, walk toward them from behind. Without crowding them, we were going to suggest and encourage them to move into the corral.
When the first one saw me, he took off on a dead run. Then came the neighbors, swinging sticks and screaming bloody murder. One guy was wearing a motorcycle helmet, another was flapping a jacket. The kid who was supposed to close the gate when they went into the corral was standing right in the middle of the gate, blocking it. In the end, there were about a dozen people running through the woods, screaming like something out of "Braveheart." I’m surprised there were no explosives used.
For some reason, they stampeded rather than going into the corral. Apparently the neighbors have been chasing them all summer with dogs and motorcycles. These are now the wildest, spookiest cattle the world has ever known. My guess is that we better get used to them, because there isn’t anybody who’s going to herd them into a trailer now. They’re part of the neighborhood.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.