June 8, 2011
A Grate Experience
On the fourth morning of the WAND, we had only covered a mile or so when we saw that we were approaching a group of cattle gathered at a cattle grate. We soon realized that they were cornered by the grate and fences on each side–and that among them was a huge bull. As we paused to figure out our strategy, two young cows surprised us by jumped over the grate, which we didn’t think they could manage. We really only had two choices: climb over the fence on the right, or climb over the fence on the left, and then walk overland until we were past the grate. We chose the right side and walked through a small cluster of trees. We then had to climb another fence to get back to the road. It was intimidating to be so close to the bull at that point, even though we were beyond the grate, because there was no actual fence separating us from him. Our plan if he had started to chase us at any point was to drop our packs and scatter, but fortunately it didn’t come to that.
The two cows that had jumped the grate must have decided that was the way to go, because they did it again as we neared the next grate a quarter mile down the road. Shortly afterward, a rancher drove up to us in a truck with a trailer attached. He told us he was concerned that we would continue to drive those cows and potentially a large part of his herd farther and farther from where they were supposed to be. He thought for a moment, then offered to give us a ride until we were in the clear. He told us to grab onto the sides of the trailer, then changed his mind and had us stand inside it. A ten-year-old boy was with him and he rode in the trailer with us–a nice kid from Belfield, ND, helping out at the ranch for the week. We also shared the trailer with a pretty black cow who had her own compartment and mooed plaintively (or so it seemed to me) at the cows in the pasture at one point. Our ride was between two and three miles long. I have mixed feelings about it because it seems like we cheated a little bit by accepting a ride, but it would have been spiteful of us to refuse. And it was unusual and kind of fun to get a ride in a trailer.