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Cattle Don't Belong on Golf Courses

July 4, 2022

  Nova Duncan, a Scottish Highlander/Belted Galloway calf, gets a hug from farm worker Joe. Nova and her buddies are regular escapees from Miles Smith Farm pastures.

The call came in at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Five cows were seen near the golf course that abuts my farm. This was serious. Cattle could destroy the turf.

Except that cattle tend to avoid the golf course because there is nothing to eat. What? Yes, cattle love grass, just not the golf-course variety. The grass is more like astroturf, not tasty to cows. Besides, it's too short. Bovines like tall grass, and golfers do not. So the groundskeepers keep the turf cut close. In the past, only one farm escapee wandered onto the golf course, but it was mid-winter, and the ground was frozen and invulnerable to hooves. The owner was angry, but no damage was done.

But this time could be different. The call was from farm friend Diane Hersey who passed on the message from her friend who lives beside the golf course. Was the whole herd out, or was it just some calves? Without details, husband Bruce and I had to act fast, so we grabbed a bucket of alfalfa cubes and a lead rope and jumped on the ATV. With dog Flora running point, we headed through the pastures to the back road to the golf course.

Thirty years ago, I sold land to Bill Crowley, the golf course designer, so he could expand the course to 18 holes and build houses overlooking the links. Here and there, I recognized a ridge or rock ledge that used to be part of my farm, but nothing else was familiar. The former fields now contained in-ground sprinklers spewing water over manicured lawns that sloped up to McMansions and immaculate flower gardens. This subdivision could have been lifted from a Greenwich, Conn., suburb and seemed out of place next to my farm, where pastures rule and lawns get zero love.

Invisible Calves

We didn't see any cattle on the course, so we searched in the other direction. I waved down a car and a truck, but no one had seen the escapees until I found Kathy Whedon standing in her front yard.

"Yes, I saw the calves. They were all small, and one of them looked like an Oreo cookie. There were five of them in my backyard," said Kathy. "When I opened the back door, they all scooted away."

Phew, I thought, just delinquent calves looking for adventure – no big cows with big hooves. We checked Kathy's backyard, but the rascals were gone – back to the pasture and their mothers, we later found out.

50th Reunion

Last week these same calves had wandered through my under-construction flower garden knocking over pots. They had expanded their range, seeking adventure elsewhere. Our fencing is no match for determined calves, so I expect they will escape again, except someone else will have to track them down this week. Bruce and I are time traveling. We are at my 50th reunion at Principia College, a college for Christian Scientists in Elsah, Ill. It's time travel because we've forgotten we are in our 70s. We've reminisced about college football games and late-night trips to the local diner, but we also celebrated who we have become. We are not just a bunch of older people but adults who have written books, become famous or not-so-famous or even sailed around the world. One thing is for sure; we've all made a difference.

I hope the calves decide to stay put, but if they don't, who can blame them? What a joy to be young and carefree.

Carole Soule

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