Jean Schwieder


The other evening my husband, Boyd, asked if I wanted to ride with him on our John Deere Gater to go out back and check the cows. It was a beautiful fall evening, sun still up, air starting to cool down, so why not? Thinking this would be no more than a pleasant ride out and back, I didn’t take a jacket or gloves. I’ve been with Boyd on rides before, so I should have known better!

We hadn’t gone far before we saw a cow on the wrong side of the fence. Looking around we saw more cows seemingly enjoying their freedom. There were six or eight of them happily walking through a field of potatoes, and they were not our potatoes. So Boyd drove down to open the gate connecting the two fields and got the cow closest to the gate out. Returning to our side of the fence we drove around it to see where the cows had escaped while keeping an eye on the remaining escapees. We found they had pushed through the wire, pulling it away from the fence posts until they made a spot where they could climb through the fence.

A fence mending job was needed. But first Boyd climbed through the fence to get the cows out of the potatoes, giving me instructions to pick him up back at the gate. I drove slowly knowing if the Gater beat the cows to the gate, those bovines would run further away. Of course I tried to keep You and Two, our dogs, with me. I used the same vocal signals that Boyd does to keep them close. They stopped, looked at me, turned back around and started running again toward Boyd. I guess the different tone of voice meant they didn’t have to obey. Apparently, I’m not their boss.

Boyd got the cows through the gate, and we returned to the downed fence. He put on his gloves and had me grab the bucket with fencing supplies and follow him. (I could have used my gloves at this point.) Then he would tell me what he needed as he worked on fixing the fence. His asking for tools and me handing them to him reminded me of my days as a scrub nurse in surgery. The difference, of course besides the tools and a clean room, was neither of us had on sterile surgery garb nor a mask. I didn’t slap the tools into the palm of his hand like I would for a doctor, but like a doctor, he didn’t look at me as he requested tools. I almost laughed out loud while handing him pliers as I looked down and saw he was standing with one foot in a pile of fresh cow manure and the other on grass.

After fixing the fence good enough to last until he could get some more wire, we rode the Gater about a half a mile looking for wire. I thought it was mud that was hitting my face as we tore across a couple of fields, but Boyd told me it was gnats. They were out in swarms. We got to a shed and there was no wire there. I figured that by the time we got back to the house driving through those flying insects my face was going to look like the windshield in the pickup.

We made it home before dark with a feeling of accomplishment, plus being glad that we went out to check the cows. The wire needed to make repairs to the fence was located. Our friends, Lee Gaskil and Scott Hansen, volunteered do the repairs the next day. So the cows are once again safely locked in the pasture until the next time they find a way out, which they will.

Even with the repairs to be done and cows to be rounded up, we had an enjoyable evening. I have always loved to go for a ride around our farm and ranch, especially in the cool evenings! The open Gater enables us to watch for birds and coyotes, and we can see, hear, and smell nature at its best.

Good friends, good work, a good evening ride with my husband sure makes for a pleasant life on the farm.

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at