Mid-day yesterday, the air filled with the smell of wood smoke. At first, I thought some fool had decided to burn brush despite the dry, breezy conditions. Then I spotted the smoke--and lots of it--coming from the ridge directly across the creek from our property. I grabbed my camera (mostly for its telephoto lens) and headed up onto the Booth (the big hill beyond our barns) to get a closer look. Not only did I get an eyeful of smoke and flames leaping up the trees, but I found lots of ash in our very dry pasture up there. Most frightening was the sound of the fire whooshing through the underbrush every time the breeze kicked up.
I could hear the firemen talking on their radios not far from where I was, so I knew they were at least watching it. A neighbor who called 911 later told me that it was a controlled burn. We'd had one of those a couple of years ago in the same place but not nearly so big. I don't know if it got out of control or if there was just that much more fuel on the ground after our big snowstorm last winter, but this one was too close for comfort.
The fire was out well before sundown and I took comfort in the sound of chainsaws in the area, presumably the firefighters cutting down a few hazardous trees as they looked for hot spots. Later in the evening, the smell of smoke came through the windows strongly. I started to look for a glow in the distance but saw nothing. I suspect it was just the smell of the charred remains enhanced by the evening dew.
Much as I appreciate the fire department clearing out the fuel on the forest floor so there's less to burn if a wildfire breaks out, I sure wish they'd let us know when they're doing it. Nothing focuses one's attention and gets the mind racing like seeing flames heading toward your property. But before I could turn my mind to creating an evacuation plan for the buffs, I had to think about a different problem: how to fend off an invasion.
As I sat at my computer, eating breakfast long about 7 o'clock this morning, I heard an enormous splash in the creek. This was not the bloop of a black walnut hitting the water nor of a kingfisher going in for the kill. Too big for turkey and too graceless for deer, I ran to the window to see what was making the successive splashes. What should I see but our neighbor's herd of about 10 black Angus cattle trooping through our lower pasture and up into the side yard.
I stepped out in my barefeet and nightgown to see if that scary sight alone would be enough to convince them to turn tail and return home. It was not. They proceeded up the driveway toward the water buffalo. I ran back inside, tried unsuccessfully to reach the cattle's owner, threw on some proper clothing and my boots, then headed after them.
Naturally, I found them right across from the buffs. I let myself into the pasture with the buffs and found myself staring across at a very large bull (looked to be easily 1800 lbs) who had located the low point in our fence. I tried to make some quick calculations about the best escape route should he decide to jump the fence. The buffs were chill as always, though they were curious about their bovine brethren. The herd had quite a few bulls, all of whom were quite a bit bigger than the buffs--heck, so were the cows. I think there was only one calf that was smaller than the buffalo. Despite my buffs having horns, this was not going to be a fair fight. Not one to back down, Eschol started heading for the fence and I tried my best to distract him. Eventually, the big bull grew weary of our standoff and headed back towards the house. The others followed, as did I--at a safe distance.
Bru was delighted as always to make the acquaintance of a big beastie.