Monday, September 14, 2009

While the Cat's Away...

It only happens when you're away.

  • Five hundred miles away from the farm. 
  • The first trip that Deb and I have taken together to visit family in Michigan for years.
  • A cadre of friends and neighbors carefully selected and instructed on the care and nurturing of all of our animals and plants.
  • Four days into the trip with three days left before our return.
And the phone rings at my brother's home.
My brother's wife: "Deb, it's Pat for you."

I hear my wife give a cheerful, "Hi! How are you doing? What's up?"

"You're kidding, right?"

"Are the animals safe?"

"I can't believe it. Did they catch him?"

"Do they know who did it?"

"No, tell Jack not to chase any cows."

"No, we'll fix it when we get home."

"No, there's nothing you could have done about it. Sorry that it happened on your watch. Thanks for calling."

By this point, I'm dying. This was not anywhere near as clear as a Bob Newhart telephone monologue. "Deb, what in the world happened?"

"Some time in the night last night, there was a high speed chase down our country road. A vehicle ended up missing the turn, went through our pasture fence, into the field, and ripped out another hole in the fence on its way out. Pat doesn't know who did it or whether they caught the guy.  A neighbor rounded up the horses and llamas, but Jack hasn't seen the cows."

Based on what I had to say, and on what I thought but left unsaid about the situation, if St. Peter really has a log book with him at the Pearly Gates, he wore out a few erasers wiping out any brownie points I may or may not have had accumulated over this long and sordid life.  I was mad. That kind of thing isn't supposed to happen in my little piece of  North Woods Paradise.

When we got home, our neighbor who had rounded up our horses and llamas, had taken photos of the scene and provided them to us on disk.  This is what we had greeting us on our arrival home a few days later. The entry point:

And the exit point.

Upon speaking with the County Deputy Sheriff, we learned that the high speed chase had started miles away when he tried to pull over a pickup truck for speeding. The chase extended into the next county where the driver pulled off into a logging road that the Deputy could not get down. They didn't catch the guy that night.

Fortunately, our trusty fence ripped some pieces from the truck, including the license plate. So the Deputy was able to find the owner, who just happened to have a warrant out for his arrest before the chase for nonpayment of child support,but who naturally claimed that his vehicle had been stolen that night, and who "lawyered up" after having been read his Miranda rights, so we could not find out whether he has any insurance to cover our damages. The state victim assistance program also has no funds for covering property damage.

So we will have to foot the bill for new fencing. It was previously woven wire that got bent and stretched out of shape much beyond the two holes, so now we are replacing at least half the fenceline with cattle panels attached to much more closely spaced posts. The new fence may not stop a speeding truck, but it may do  more damage and slow it down some. Whether we see any compensation will have to await trial and jail time.

At least the animals were uninjured.... by the vehicle at least. The horses, while out broke down a section of the neighbor's fence trying to get to their horses, again without any major injury. The cows were safe and sound in a different pasture on our property.

But in the new paddock where the horses were put, our little Arabian filly decided to investigate a passing porcupine and got a face full of quills:

We were able to extricate two from her face before she decided that she had enough of that. So add in the costs of an emergency vet visit to have the horse tranquilized for the remainder of the process. The vet said that the good thing is that unlike dogs, he has never had to pull quills out of a horse's face more than once.
All in all, I guess it could have been much worse. After I get the fence mended and the bank repaid, all I will have to do is try working on ever so slowly re-accumulating those lost brownie points.


  1. Ah, life on the farm. I can sympathize with you on repairing the fence. We are in the process of fencing our property, or most of it, and it has broke our bank, haha.
    Can you believe the price of those steel t-posts nowadays? Good grief.
    Poor filly! I guess that proves horses are smarter than dogs. We have not had that experience YET, but I am saying that quietly. Our Boxer/Bull dog is way too curious for his own good.

  2. Wow. Glad all are ok. Good to have good neighbors like you have.

  3. What a bummer for all those involved. Fencing cost $$$ and can be painful to install. But I would say, not quite as painful as your filly looks. Oh that is just awful and their mouths are so sensitive. Poor baby. Both of you have my sympathy for sure.

  4. My OH my....don't you just hate all the preparation of getting ready to leave the place (even for just an overnighter) and then, as well as you did, something like that happens? I am a deputy too and since you are a victim here you should be able to get the information from the sheriff's office about the violator's insurance. BUT, don't count on him having any. If he has warrants and doesn't pay child support he sure doesn't spend his money on insurance. Good luck...and yes, the best thing is --- relatively no one got hurt. Can't replace that.

  5. What a mess! So glad the animals didn't get hurt, well, except for the poor horse. I hope you can get compensation somehow.

  6. Could be a funny story if it wasn't such a scary situation!

    What a fluke - and you're right that these thing only happen when you're away!

    Great writing - glad I found your blog!

    Holli in Ghana

  7. What a shame! We just had our place re-fenced this year so I know how expensive that is, and of course then there's the worry of having the animals out while you're away and helpless. I'm glad the animals are fine.

  8. That stinks, but at least he was caught! How cool that your fence grabbed his license plate!

  9. Wow - what an amazing story...and horrifying, to boot. I'm so glad that all your critters are ok, despite the close-up with a porcupine. Great picture, poor little girl. I'm surprised she would go over there and nuzzle the thing - but like the vet said, it probably won't happen twice.
    I don't think you should entirely give up on receiving compensation for all your damage - it may take a while, but you all deserve at least some payment in return for the damage, worry, animal displacement, etc. Thinking goog thoughtf for you.

  10. Dang, what a story. Years of work go into maintaining a fence.

  11. Unreal. Well, you certainly had an interesting vacation. Sorry all this happened to you.
    And poor horse!

  12. Hi Graig... enjoyed this posting. Hope those quills came out of that soft little nose okay and that by now the fence is all mended and life has returned to the peace and quiet of that area of the world.

    I saw you on my reader's list for my blog and wanted to let you know that I am having a giveaway of a pretty scarf that perhaps you would like to win and give to your wife. Come leave a comment if you like!

    The Blue Ridge Gal

  13. Hope all is well with you and your family and farm. Happy Thanksgiving time!

  14. Wow! Don't the darnedest things happen when your away? I just got back from a Vacation myself that's why I'm only reading this post now that it's two mths old. I hope everything is mended, and that you've heard something from the courts by now. We're trying to cross fence a section of our property this spring so I've looked into the costs and I must say it's a darn shame that yours was so destroyed. Good luck with the repairs if they are not already completed, and Happy Holidays, God Bless.

  15. Merry Christmas! Hope you are all off having a wonderful visit somewhere.

  16. hey..... where are you and why are you not posting anymore? i hope all is well!

  17. Happy New Year! Hope all is well. Miss your posts.

  18. I love readding, and thanks for your artical.........................................

  19. EVERY time I turn my backl on my animals...something dreadfull always seems to happen!

    great blog by the way!
    john (wales)

  20. Yes, it is a great blog. Sure hope all is well and you can get back to posting sometime soon.

  21. What a story. That just stinks I know, particularly on vacation. So glad your animals were all safe. Great blog! I just found you and loved this story :) I will read more.
    Amy at Verde Farm

  22. Graig,
    I'll have to get on here more often. I haven't talked to you in a while so I had no idea this had happened. Sorry to hear, but hopefully you can recover at trial. I'll give you a call soon.


  23. Graig,
    What a story! It shows when you leave home something bad will happen. Glad everything was put back together! Poor horse...