I live in New Jersey. Most people associate NJ with factories, mobsters, “Jersey Shore”, and “The Real Housewives”. And that’s not really that far off, as far as stereotypes go…. until you get to my little corner of the state.
South Jersey is nothing like the rest of NJ, to the point that it doesn’t even seem like the same state. I think we may actually, somehow, be part of Arkansas.
For the most part, I don’t mind this. I’m no “Real Housewife”, so I get along quite well with the farm-folk down here. But every so often I have one of those “Where the hell do I live?” moments.
Case in point:
Several years ago I was in my house, minding my own business, when I suddenly noticed my horses completely losing their minds outside. I mean totally out of control: running, circling, blowing, eyes bugging out of their heads like aliens had just landed on the front lawn.
I rushed out onto the front porch to see what they were going on about, and found myself face to face with a Longhorn.
He (I checked, he was a steer) was standing in my front yard, right next to my porch, and looking rather confused. Also, he was huge! My porch is raised a good three feet up, and he was looking me right in the eye. He was easily 15 hands high, and a good 2000lbs.
Upon processing the fact that there was a giant Longhorn steer standing on my front lawn, I jumped, yelled “What the $*@%!!!”, and then ran off to the barn to get a lead line and a bucket of grain.
Now, let me just say that running off to the barn for a lead rope and grain was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a loose animal. I’m used to horses, and when you see a loose horse you try to catch it. I don’t know anything about cattle, and I suddenly remembered that as I was running back from the barn with my bucket and lead rope.
Actually, my exact thought was, “What the $*@% am I going to do with this thing if I catch it?”.
Luckily (for me), the steer wanted no part of me and my bucket. He ran off down the driveway and then onto the road, which was a whole new problem…
I live on a winding, two lane highway that is a major thoroughfare for our township. It’s not super busy, but most of the traffic is doing 50-60 miles an hour (way over the speed limit!), and now there is about 2000lbs worth of panicked beef stampeding down it. That could really ruin someone’s day if they hit him.
So, I call the New Jersey State Troopers. My township doesn’t have a police force, we have to call the State Troopers when we have a problem. The dispatcher seems a little confused, but tells me they’re sending someone out and have notified the county’s Animal Control Officer.
Animal Control is the first to show up. Turns out, our county’s Animal Control consists of a very nice man, named Earl, in a van. Yes, a van. It’s a friggin’ steer, what’s he gonna do with a van?
Earl is very nice and tries to help, though. I point out where the steer went, and Earl trudges off to…. actually I have no idea what Earl was going to do with no rope, no trailer, and no tranquilizers. But at least he was trying to do something.
Enter the New Jersey State Troopers. They are obviously completely out of their league, here. The State Troopers catch one sight of the steer and panic, proclaiming, “We’re not touching this! The call said there was a loose cow, that’s a bull!”. (It was not a bull. It was obviously a steer, but I wasn’t going to argue bovine genders with the State Troopers). The State Troopers then add, “Our guns can’t even shoot that, it’s too big!” and retreat to their patrol cars.
The steer, still terrified and running, has now run off the road and into the woods across the street. Earl starts telling me about the herd of Highland cattle that escaped from a nearby farm a few years ago and is rumored to still be living in the same woods that the Longhorn has now retreated to.
As Earl is relating the Tale of the Highland Cattle to me, I suddenly remember the time one of my friends, who has a farm that backs up to those very same woods, called me in a panic swearing she just saw the Jersey Devil run through her arena. I told her maybe she should stop drinking, but now I’m wondering if she saw one of those cows…
At this point, we notice a man riding a horse up the highway with a rope. He stops and says, “I left the gate open and my steer got out. Have you seen him?”
Yup, it was the owner of the truant steer. Upon finding his beast missing, he had decided the best plan of action was to get on his horse and wander the highways of NJ looking for it. Earl tells him the steer has gone into the woods. The woods are too dense for a horse to traverse easily, and certainly too dense to rope a steer, so the steer’s owner decides to set up camp, with his horse, on the side of the highway to wait for the steer to come out.
This is apparently enough for the State Troopers and Animal Control to feel that the situation is handled, and they leave. Also at this point, I decide I have had enough South Jersey shenanigans for one day and retreat back to the house for a cocktail. I did tell the “cowboy” that he could bring his horse up to my place for water or hay if he needed it. I did not offer him a cocktail.
The “cowboy” stayed out there for several hours, then went home when it got dark.
I have no idea if the steer was ever caught or if it just joined the rumored herd of Highland cattle. I haven’t seen it again, but every time my horses get to looking at something and snorting I think to myself, “Shit! There better not be another steer in my lawn”.