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Erica Ramsey Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 10 May 2021

If you’ve followed me long on here or over at my blogs on Progressive Cattle, you know I’ve got two topics I talk about on repeat.

The first is the weather. You can find great weather examples here and here. The second is the propensity for gates to mysteriously to be open on our farm. According to those I blame, it really is a mystery. You can read the first blog I wrote about it. I still have flashbacks about that day. Something about being recently postpartum, chasing cows off the highway will do that to you. I’ve also got a great one involving horses and one on my dad’s operation. It really is a problem. 

The conspiracy behind this propensity is that it tends to happen most when my husband is not home. Lately, he has been traveling a lot. He has been all over the country the last few months doing some veterinary consulting work. So, if you follow my logic, husband gone equals gates left open, which equals cows (or horses) out, which equals Erica agitated (to put it gently). And, before you jump to any conclusions, I only very rarely have major feeding duty when he is gone. Furthermore, when I do, the gates get shut. There were two more incidences in the last month. So, I’ve decided to dub the conspiracy with a name. It is called gate-gate. It’s a conspiracy where the perpetrators unintentionally, if sub-consciously (wait, is it possible to do something subconsciously unintentionally?), leave the gates open with the intention to cause me stress. 

Who are these perpetrators, you ask? It varies from said husband, who leaves gates open and then leaves, to the farm kid who helps during the summer, to our rancher partner Dean and his son, to my own daughters. 

To put substance to my claims, I have two more incidences to share. One evening late last month, I was just coming into the house after my evening chores. Husband was gone and I was just getting ready to make dinner for me and the kids. I looked out the window that sits above the sink. I saw our two horses and two ponies running at full tilt up the driveway. I screamed (quite literally) at my daughters (eight and five years old). We ran outside just in time to see our neighbor (the cable repairman from the postpartum story) scare them away from the highway. They changed direction and headed through our other neighbor’s newly planted and recently irrigated field. We jumped on the four-wheeler with halters in hand. The whole way I formulated a plan in my mind while lecturing the girls, swearing I’d sell the horses when we caught them. Tears were streaming down their faces, and I could tell they believed me because no one was talking back. Fortunately, this story ends well. We got in front of the horses and they stopped running. We made our move to catch them, and they took off again, this time, right toward the farmyard. When we caught up with them, they had let themselves back into their pasture through the open gate. I chained the gate and contemplated sending the girls to bed without dinner. My mothering instinct won over and they ate. 

The second incident happened the next week, but I had my revenge, if again, unintentionally. It was just starting to get dark, and I heard the cows causing a ruckus in the corrals. Knowing better than to ignore the noise, I went down just to make sure everything was alright. I drove the four-wheeler, and just as I stopped, my headlights caught a cow looking up from her place deep inside the silage bag. I looked around and what looked like all of the cows were leisurely eating straight out of the haystack or like this little heathen, right out of the silage bag. I saw that the gate had been left completely open. An old pro at this kind of thing, I called my husband (who was in Oklahoma and had been for the last two days) and chewed him out for his incompetence and leaving me to deal with this mess. After I hung up, I got into the tractor, which was still attached to the feed wagon, and drove it back into the pasture through the open gate. And, like cows who know where dinner comes from, they followed me back into the pasture. Then I was left with the dilemma of how to extricate the tractor and feed wagon from the pasture without the cows following me back out. You see, I didn’t leave them any feed. After some finagling, I got it done and drove the tractor back into the farmyard. I hopped out of the tractor and shut the gate (of course I did).  Then I saw my almost three year old wondering toward me in nothing but underwear and rubber boots. I turned off the ignition and went to meet my toddler, picked him up and resumed by nightly routine. 

The next afternoon, when Dean showed up to feed (you better believe he got an earful from me, too) he sent me a text that simply said, “Revenge?” Apparently, in my hurry, I’d left the dome lights on and the tractor was completely dead. The conspiracy of gate-gate lives on.  end mark

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Ramsey Louder.