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Independent critters are no organized party on moving day

May 16, 2012

Beth says that all animals are Republicans because they hate change.

They are wonderful, charming and warm until you try to alter the way things have always been done, at which point they become frightened, snarling monsters who likely as not will get right in your face and threaten to stampede you if you so much as suggest a single-payer health system.

But our cattle and donkeys were in for a major change Tuesday when they had to be moved to a new home — forget that they are going from a rather rocky hillside to a broad, lush river bottom surrounded by green, West Virginia mountains. No site can out-Heidi this one, but, of course, the animals did not know that.

Here was Beth’s way of moving her donkeys: She parked the horse trailer in the corral and opened the gate. Every morning and night she would sit for what seemed like hours in the trailer, hand-feeding them grapes every time they would take an additional step up the ramp.

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In this fashion, she was able to get them closer and closer to the trailer itself until, with practice, patience and attention to detail, she was able to lure them into the trailer.

Here was my way of moving my cattle: I called my friend Jonathan and asked him to do it for me.

Donkeys have a well-earned reputation for stubbornness, so we were certain they would give us the most trouble. But on moving day, I’ll be darned if all of Beth’s training didn’t pay off, and they pretty much just walked up the ramp and into the trailer.

They weren’t terribly happy when the gate slammed behind them, but that was their fault for failing to ask the right questions, in my view.

I was up next. My only saving grace was that I had Jonathan on my side. He is from an established farm family, and of an age where it will never occur to him that something can’t be done. I, on the other hand, look at my shoelaces each morning and see a million things that could potentially go wrong trying to get them tied.

Jonathan has a stock trailer large enough to be considered adequate living quarters for an entire soccer league in some Third World countries. But he whips it around tight places like it’s a snowboard or something, so he had it backed up to the gate in no time.

It was then that my lack of an off-season training regimen began to show in ways that would prove to be an embarrassment.

My theory was that the two level-headed bell cows, Cleopatra and Heifertiti, would set the tone for the younger members of the clan by calmly stepping on the trailer.

I had that half right. They certainly set the tone by immediately freaking and sending panic rippling through their children, nieces and nephews. And, for that matter, me.

When they burst through a gate like hamburger gone wild, I thought the jig was up. They zigged, zagged, pitched and rolled, sweeping away everything in their path for about 45 minutes. Jonathan however remained calm — this was obviously not his first rodeo — and managed to win by attrition.

But at what cost? Eyes bulging, tongue swollen, coat soaked in sweat, covered in grime and excrement, traumatized for life probably — and that was just me, I couldn’t even imagine what the cows were going through.

But I do know that the Democrats are lucky that cows can’t vote.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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