Chasing Cows

Today we were cleaning up one of the big metal barns full of every bit of junk you can imagine, the more potential for injury the better. Behind the jagged corners of rusting machinery there are old paintings falling out of their frames, bits of wood carved into crude geometric designs, computer parts and office furniture. All precariously jumbled together into a hoarder’s paradise.

We have been tasked with transforming one corner of the barn into a workers’ kitchen. This would replace our existing “outdoor kitchen”, which consists of a metal table, gas camping stove, a few utensils and a hosepipe suspended above a ceramic bowl with a hole in it. The barn is pulsing with a wealth of filth accumulated over the years – solid layers of dust, congealed grease, rat droppings, you name it – so it’s a hell of a job.

Not the kind of work we signed up for, but we decided to give it a bash until we confirmed our next farm.

We were doing what we could – which unfortunately wasn’t the professional deep-clean job Buzzel seemed to expect – when we spied a stray calf in the yard. Mark went over to open the gate and let it join the rest of its herd outside in the neighbouring fields.

I’m sweeping up rat turds when I sense something outside. I step into the doorway to see what’s going on. Mark is slowly walking towards me, shaking his head dejectedly, while a blurred brown mass of about forty cows streaks past in the background – up the driveway and into the compound and gardens beyond.

Blank incomprehension turns into astonishment, then to anger, then incredulous wonder at how Mark could have screwed up so colossally. Instead of one cow out, forty were in. I decide to take action, clueless as to the size of the task that lay ahead.

After maybe half an hour of dashing about waving a stick, screaming obscenities and plunging knee-deep into a shitbog in a crazed attempt to herd the cows back towards the gates, my bitter distress at the lack of progress transforms into amused appreciation at the absurdity of the situation.

This is reinforced all the more hilariously when Buzzel comes bursting out of nowhere onto the path in front of me, brandishing a staff in both hands above his head and ululating mad, foreign howls. Mangy old Fucker is of course at his heels, doing his part and barking his wizened lungs out at the huge brown beasts trotting around the lake in front.

In the midst of the chaos, I was sprinting along the lakeside path when I came face to face with a large cow who clearly wanted past me. Time stopped for a moment as we looked each other in the eye, the big girl shifting her weight left and right as she weighed up her options. In a folly of raging bravado, I glared at her and yelled where she could go. Fortunately for me – she had horns – she obeyed and turned to scamper back the way she came.

It was all a futile endeavour though. We spent another while roaming about in vain, chasing the surprisingly nimble animals. Eventually, we decided just to let them graze and relax for a bit.

Buzzel had previously warned us not to let any cows in as they ruin his beloved green grass, but after he ran out of breath he was nonchalant too.

When the dust had settled and their bellies were full, it was much easier to usher them out, calmly organising ourselves in a trident formation and using walkie-talkies to keep tabs on any stragglers trying to hide in bushes. We’re real handymen of the country now.

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