I grew up around cattle – my grandparents had cattle, and a young Angus bull chased me across a creek on my uncle Chris and aunt Norma Sailer’s farm north of Beulah, ND. That was scary, I swear I walked on water running as the bull was coming at me jumping and bucking. It was terrifying. Thinking about the incident afterward, I know for sure the bull was smiling and having a good time.
This story is about being intimidated by a herd of cattle. I was bullied by bovines. I had got permission to fish a stretch of Spearfish Creek north of town that runs through ranch land. My first time fishing that area I had noticed signs of cattle: barbed wire fences, worn cattle trails, hoof prints, and quite a few cow patties.
The fishing trip started out bad from the moment I stepped out of the car. There is a large metal gate that I climb over, and two heifers stood between me and the gate. To be honest I’m not sure what they were, they had four legs, a long tail, and they had an odor to them.
Cow: A cow is a female animal that has had at least one calf.
Heifer: A heifer is a female animal that has never had a calf. Once a heifer has a calf, she automatically becomes a cow.
Bull: A mature male animal that is used for breeding.
Steer: A steer is a male animal that has been neutered.
I slowly approached the gate and of course they didn’t move out of the way. That is the first clue that you might be dealing with a bovine bully. They just stood there, casually chewing their cud.
Cud: Partly digested food returned from the first stomach of ruminants to the mouth for further chewing.
Nothing gets in the way of me going fishing, except the weather and my wife – but two 600-pound cows, heifers, steers made me think twice. I thought maybe I would have to find somewhere else to go fishing. I slowly tried to herd them away from the gate, they each took a step back as if preparing to charge. The tension was mounting. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity they both had enough and took off around me, hooves kicking up dirt. I proceeded to climb over the gate in triumph, my thoughts getting back to fishing.
I worked my way along the creek, trying my favorite spots that usually hold a big brown trout. It was a beautiful warm spring day and it was great to be outside. A few nice trout followed my woolly bugger fly but no hook-ups. Walking a half mile or so, I fished my last spot and then started back. Usually I fish the same spots on the way back, just in case their mood has changed, and they are looking for something to eat. My favorite spot is a bend in the creek with a deeper hole or eddy where I have seen big browns submerged a foot down just waiting for the current to bring them some lunch. The bank is very high and steep, so I can sneak up to the edge, peek over and see if any trout are sitting in the deeper hole.
I saw a couple nice brown trout down below in the shady deeper pool. They were in feeding mode, so I quickly tossed out my bugger to see if one would attack the fly. Just then my cell phone rang, it was my wife calling. I thought about throwing my phone into the creek but decided I better answer it. As we were talking, I was facing the creek staring at the trout that I should have been catching. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling come over me, like someone or something was watching me. Just then coming from behind me somewhere I heard a “hmmfff” sound.
You know the feeling when something startles you, your mind subconsciously presents what it might be that you heard. Well my mind told me mountain lion! What I remember next is faintly hearing Heather babbling over the phone. Something about being safe, when are you coming home, etc. I blurted out I have to go, will call you back and quickly turned around to face my pending death. Instead of a blood thirsty mountain lion, about 25 yards away were about 10 brown colored cattle. They were all standing in a very neat row, reminded me of civil war soldiers in a skirmish line preparing to attack. No charge came, and I concluded they were just curious as to what I was doing in their pasture.
I called Heather back and told her what had happened and went back to trying to catch a trout. I would like to tell you this is the end of the story (if you are still reading this, thank you) but things are about to get interesting.
The Showdown is Looming
Things were settling down, and I still had a few good spots to try before heading back to the car. As I was walking to my next spot, I would causally glance over my shoulder checking to see what the cows were up to. Thinking they would just go back to doing cow stuff – nope, they were slowly closing in on me. When I would turn my back on them, they would take a few steps towards me and stop – still in their skirmish line. This kept repeating and I started to get a little nervous. I had one more spot to try, but I was starting to lose my interest in fishing. I was being stalked. They were now only 15 feet away from me and I couldn’t turn my back on them any longer.
There is a barbed wire fence that cuts through the pasture, and it goes right over the creek in two spots. My last spot is right next to the fence, and then I would cross over the fence to get back to the car. By now I had completely lost interest in fishing, the cattle gang were now less than 10 feet from me and I was cornered. My back was touching the fence, I pointed my fly rod at them and gave them a stern warning. They blinked, licked their lips and scraped their hooves in the dirt. I was seriously scared now, tossed my fly rod over the fence so I could use both hands to push the top wire down. I could feel the barbs dig into my hands as I nervously tried to get my leg up and over the top wire, at the same time keeping an eye on the gang. My waders got hooked on the fence but was able to get free and over to the other side.
What a relief, I stood there looking at the cows which were now right up to the fence. I called them bullies, picked up my fly rod and started walking back to the car thankful that was over. Or so I thought.
I had to cross the creek one more time, go up a slight hill, and then climb over the big metal gate. As I came up to the creek, on the opposite side about 25 yards upstream was another herd of cattle, these were black with white faces. I looked them over and one in-particular was really looking me over. The others didn’t seem to pay any attention but this one had other plans. I sloshed through the shallow water over to the other side, and then started up the little hill. Still nervous about the encounter with the brown colored cattle I kept an eye on this new possible threat. Sure enough, the cow that was eyeballing me started bucking, jumping and heading towards me! I turned and yelled, and it stopped thankfully. I made it to the gate without further incident.
Revenge is a dish best served “wet”
Now, jumping ahead a few months. Yesterday, I decided to head back out there to do some fishing – the cattle incident still fresh in my mind. As I pulled up to my parking spot I saw the same herd of brown colored cows off in the distance. They had their heads down munching on grass. Debating whether I should just go somewhere else to fish, I decided to give it a try, but would by-pass them as best I could. I made a big circle around them through the pasture, heading to some of my spots further upstream. The sun was still high and bright, and the trout were spooky. It was hot, and I debated whether to just head home. Walking back I saw the herd up ahead and one looked up at me but went back to eating, eventually they all headed across the creek and up the hill grazing on grass. I was relieved, so I decided to stop at my favorite spot with the deeper eddy where I have seen some big trout.
As I came up to the edge of the bank, which has at least a 7-foot vertical drop down to the creek. I could just barely see the top of two brown colored cows eating some grass or weeds growing next to the steep bank. They were below me and neither noticed me. I knew I was safe on top of the cliff – a smile crept across my face. Slowly creeping closer to the edge looking down at them, finally one got a glimpse of me. I swear that poor cow jumped straight up leaping into the deep eddy, for a second, it’s entire body disappeared below the surface of the water! It popped back up made it to the opposite side of the creek and stood there dripping wet, it’s tongue lapping the water off its face. I glanced over at the other cow, who was looking at its buddy wondering what the heck is wrong with you? It waded to the other side of the creek and then looked back and saw me standing up on the cliff smiling.
We all stood there looking at each other. just then, the cow that had leaped into the water, lifted its tale and pooped. I had scared the $#i! out of it.
The moment of redemption had come for me.