When Cows Go Rogue – Part 2: Bonnie’s Last Stand

This is a continuation of a story about two cows that escaped upon arrival here in May.

Warning – the following post contains a description of animal slaughter 

It had to happen on the hottest day of the year. Just as we the crew sat down for a dinner of roast beef and potato salad, the phone rang. Mark answered. It was the sheriff. “I’m here with your neighbor and she’s screaming about how your cow has been tearing down her fences to get to her pastures.” Mark replied “Have you seen her pastures? There’s no grass! There are too many horses on too little pasture. The horses are starving and tearing down fences to get out. There’s no way that cow is trying to get into those pastures.” “Well,” the Sheriff replied, “I see the cow right now, and you better come over here and take care of it or else I’m going to have to issue a citation.”

 We knew this day was coming, but we’d hoped it would wait until the fall when it was cooler. But you can’t argue with the sheriff. Mark ran and grabbed his 30-30 and AR-15, I grabbed the shells, Mike grabbed knives and a sharpening stone, and the three of us sprinted barefoot and bare-chested the 1/2 mile uphill from the house to the car, loading the guns as we ran. Mark went to start the tractor and Mike and I jumped in the FJ Cruiser and drove to the scene. The sheriff was out next to his car and a crowd of neighbors had gathered to watch. Sure enough, Bonnie was there. Not in the angry neighbor’s pasture, but in the adjacent alfalfa field owned by a local dairyman. Mark called to get permission to retrieve the cow. Check. 

Photo: Mike Chang
Bonnie’s Last Stand – Photo: Mike Chang

Bonnie was standing at the top of a hill about 200 yards above the road where we stood watching. Mike and I walked up behind a nearby barn which offered a covered position. I waited until she turned so I could get a side-shot, but she walked back over the hill, just out of sight. So we slowly walked up the hill until we could see her. At about 100 yards away, she came back into view. She stood silently, staring at us, seemingly unconcerned. Odd, because the previous times we’d tried to round her up, she had taken off running as soon we were in sight. Now here she stood, staring. She seemed to know what was about to happen. I aimed and fired the 30-30. A chest hit. She started wobbling. Mike and I sprinted up the hill towards her. As we approached, she stopped wobbling and stood still, still staring calmly, but with blood dripping from her mouth. I grabbed the AR-15 and put three shots in her head from 30 yards. She collapsed.

I sprinted up with a knife and sliced her throat from ear to ear to bleed her out, one tear rolling down my cheek as I thanked her for her freedom and sacrifice. Mo came running up the hill from the house with more knives and a rope, and we started field dressing. It was dark by the time we finished. Mark drove the tractor up and we tied her to the front-end loader bucket and mark drove her home. We followed in the FJ, covered in blood, weapons in our laps. There was a nice breeze and no flies out, so we decided to wait until the morning to butcher, so Bonnie spent an uncomfortable night, awkwardly strapped to the bucket of the tractor – raised high and out of reach of the coyotes.

The next morning we woke up early and got right to work. We only had a few hours before the heat and flies would spoil the meat. We propped her up, cut the skin off, and quickly cut as many chunks of meat off as we could, placed them in plastic garbage bags and put them right in the chest freezer. We would have needed most of the day to do the job right – to quarter, separate all the major muscle groups, and bone them out. But instead we butchered straight from the the hanging carcass – unfortunate, because it was so beautiful. A 1300 lb calf, fat from the luscious summertime grass. We finished cutting and freezing the meat just as the sun peeked into our shady spot accompanied by hoards of flies.

Bonnie's sister, Lucille
Bonnie’s sister, Lucille at New Forest Farm

Bonnie lived a life of freedom. She busted out of our fences within five minutes of her arrival here, and lived free ever since. She was able to jump barbed-wire fences at will, and so wandered between and around neighboring farms, pastures, and woodlands, eating grass, drinking water, and socializing with other cows. We’d tried several times to round her back up, but she was too fast, too smart, and had gotten too comfortable with the hilly and wooded terrain. She was a Belted Galloway – a primitive breed from Scotland that has not been quite as domesticated or “dumbed-down” as modern breeds. Any other cow would have been easy to round up and get back to the farm. Not Bonnie. She lived her last few months free – like a wild animal.

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Bonnie tenderloins on the fire. Photo: Michael Chang

Now we have 300 lbs of Bonnie in the freezer. She’ll feed us all for the coming year. Grass turns sunlight to sugar and Bonnie turned sugar to fat and protein – the most delicious and nutritious fat and protein on the planet.

Thank you, Bonnie.