or "Herding cattle, North Dakota style"
One day, during my "big bus" tour of North Dakota's "Potholes and Prairies," we stopped for lunch at a semi-abandoned homestead. The house was unoccupied, but the barn, paddocks, and outbuildings were still in use. We stopped there nearly every day, both as a birding spot to see nesting Cliff Swallows and Say's Phoebes, and also because the Quonset hut at the back of the property provided nice cover for an outdoor potty, complete with a singing Warbling Vireo.
That day, we were supplied with a sack lunch instead of dining at a local cafe. When the bus stopped and people began to get out, a cranky woman said, "Are we going to eat OUTSIDE?" as if it were a nuclear waste dump. I replied, "I'm sure you can eat on the bus if you like, but I'm going to go out." "There's no place to sit," she grumbled, to which I replied, "I'm going to sit on the ground." "That doesn't look very comfortable," she snapped. Thinking that no place on earth could be more comfortable than the lap of God, I pushed passed her, vowing never to get old and grumpy.
I had spied a dry, grassy bank with a view of the open fields across the dirt road that to my eyes appeared better than any banquette at a 5 star restaurant. By then, I would have eaten outdoors if it had been pouring rain, just to make my point, but it was in fact, quite pleasant.
It was while I was eating and casually birding and communing with nature and just enjoying the sensation of being off the bus that I spied a white sedan in the ditch behind us. At first, I thought the driver might have had an accident, but then I noticed he was moving, slowly and deliberately, up and down the grassy embankment.Fascinated, I stood up and walked back toward the action, to see what was going on.
Out of the bushes popped a half a dozen Angus cattle, followed by the white car. The driver was rounding up loose cattle and herding them like a 21st century cowboy.
He apparently recruited the driver of the blue pick-up truck, an employee of the DNR who was tailing us that day, taking publicity photos, to assist, and the two vehicles pushed the cattle down the road and in through a gate in the fence back to their pasture.
When it was all over, the rancher got back in his car and drove off, with a minimum of fuss, as if this were an every day occurrence. By then, I had called several others over to watch the process, had taken about 50 or 60 photos, and had begun planning this blog post. And all because I got off the bus.