Though I was a novice rancher, even I knew that taking a herd away from its leader was asking for trouble. Like most ladies, I expected the cows themselves wouldn’t care less. As for the alpha male, I figured he’d let his displeasure at losing his harem be known in one way or another.
I waited for the two men to act. They were experienced ranchers. Surely they would start unloading cows from one trailer’s rear compartment, loading Fergus in their stead. But the extra time for all this wasn’t in the plan. And then there was the matter of momentum. They were on a roll, cows were loaded, it was time to go. It certainly wasn’t time to stop, reflect, let common sense prevail.
Looking at Fergus, then glancing at each other, Owen and Jerry swiveled as if choreographed, jogged to their respective trucks and got in. Doors slammed as I watched in disbelief. With tires crunching on the gravel and dust billowing from the wheel wells, they drove off, shouting promises to return for Fergus as soon as they could.
Given the hauling time to their destination, the earliest we might expect to see an empty trailer again was evening. Which in turn left ample time for Fergus to consider his situation. The dust had barely settled in the driveway when it began to dawn on Fergus that he was herd-less. Normally a congenial, sociable sort, this sudden solitude was a disturbing shock, turning him from a lethargic, easygoing animal into a deeply discontented bull.
He began snorting, pawing and stamping the ground in agitation. The more he snorted and pawed, the more it seemed to him he must have something about which to be agitated, and the more agitated he became. Soon he was lashing his tail and swinging his head, mucus flying, his snorts transformed to mournful bellows of outrage and distress. He stomped and raged around his 40-foot square pen, and the more he stormed the madder he got. And then he got a whiff of a cow.
The cow he smelled was Blizzard’s Mom, kept safely apart from the hubbub in her home pen 50 yards away. Fergus now was in the thrall of his own momentum, the bullish sort. When he registered “COW”, he didn’t need additional specifics. Though the female in question wasn’t one of his cows, she was a welcome facsimile, a good enough reason for Fergus to go on a rampage. Without hesitation, he slammed his ton of muscle into the wood rails of his corral, sending them flying like so many toothpicks, and tore through the gaping hole with a bellow of outrage and lust. She, being blind and not knowing her gentleman caller, wedged herself into the far corner of her enclosure. The railing around her felt understandably secure, but left her no room to maneuver.
Fergus was himself virtually blind with the confusion of being separated from his herd. Probably equal parts delirious and delighted, he barreled toward Blizzard’s Mom with his beautiful 5-foot span of horns and in his passionate charge gored her severely. By the time we got to her there was nothing for it but to put her out of her agony immediately. When Jerry heard the story on his return, he decided that Fergus actually was a rogue bull, not safe to have around. It’s too bad he didn’t know Fergus like we did. We learned later he put him down as soon as he got him home.
Some people would say, “That’s ranching.” Others would blame the people who thoughtlessly put Fergus in that situation to begin with. Some might even shake their head and say “I told you so,” though not in so loud a voice as to be utterly un-neighborly. For a while I felt bereft, both for affable Fergus and for the mother cow, amiable animals now needlessly dead. I puzzled over how, with everything going according to plan, things could have gone so wrong. Eventually, I understood. If a plan doesn’t include the part about a happy ending, you just might not get one.