This morning I woke up thinking I would be going to a prison to do interviews. I found myself instead chasing cows through a New Zealand paddock.
Since Tuesday I’ve been staying with the Taylors, a lovely family who live on a farm outside of Wellington. The couple (Graeme and Mary) used to work for Prison Fellowship in New Zealand, so we have many mutual friends, and they graciously offered me a bed for a few days. After a week of tramping, whale-watching, and glacier walking, I was ready to take off my tourist hat and taste a bit of local flavor. I don’t think it gets more local than what happened to me today.
I was driving back from town with Graeme today (I was sitting on the passenger side, the left side, of course). As we approached the turn-off for the Taylors’ rural road, I saw five large blobs of black and white blocking the entrance.
“Oh, hello?” Graeme said quietly (but I could tell something was wrong). It was “the boys” (the Taylors’ five Hereford cows), who had apparently escaped from their paddock and were making good progress toward a dangerous intersection. “Gramps,” Mary’s father, had arrived on the scene just minutes before us, and was doing the best a 91-year-old man could do at rallying a small herd. Graeme whisked his white pickup alongside the escaping fivesome, threw on his gum boots, and began chasing the cows back down the road.
He soon realized that he couldn’t do it alone, so he instructed Gramps to drive ahead and close off the neighbors’ gates, while he drove the truck behind the cows with the intent of encouraging them to move in the right direction. Feeling a bit out of my league, I offered to chase behind them on foot. Graeme thought that would be lovely. So, out I jumped, into the wet field with my nice blue jeans and new shoes. I wasn’t quite sure what was involved in moving five breathing objects, all four times my size, but I figured yelling and clapping would do the trick. So off I went, running through wet grass up to my waist, clapping away.
Surprisingly, the big boys took the hint and began galloping (as much as two-ton mammals can gallop) down the road. After several detours (at one point, two took off up a side road), quite a few laughs, and one soggy pair of jeans later, Graeme, Gramps, and I had herded “the boys” safely into a new paddock (one broken fence showed us how they had escaped from the first one).
But the rural excitement was only beginning. This time in the hen house.