Some things just take a little urging. Other times, instinct kicks in.
That was the case last week when Craig Severtson and his sons Beau and Bret, locals who farm, moved a couple hundred head of cattle the equivalent of about a 10K from south of Flandreau to east of Egan.
On a warmer than usual late November day, a whipping wind kept the critters cool enough that they didn’t break a sweat in those six miles. The farmers and their wranglers on four wheelers and horseback encouraged the cattle with friendly calls and admonishing shouts to keep them generally going down roads, through fields and across a highway bridge in one large group.
In that way, cattle drives are a bit like life.
Sometimes we get in a herd or behind others we assume know the way, and we follow them right to the river’s edge with no way to get across. Call it a learning experience, detour or plain old mistake, but we usually have to backtrack just like the cows did when instead of crossing the bridge on Highway 34, some ran behind the guardrails and needed redirecting when stopped by the Big Sioux River.
Other times, life seems so easy that we just move along without even thinking and without incident. We just get from point A to B and might even wonder how we did it. Aging seems a little like that. The years go by, and suddenly we are amazed that we got to today, wondering how THAT happened.
And in rare cases, we find ourselves wondering off on our own, exploring a little freedom and doing our own thing. A few spirited or perhaps just confused cows escaped the herd, only to be rounded up again.
The Severtsons plan to move their herds until February, if possible, between cornfields to clean up after harvest and provide a little natural fertilizer, Bret Severtson said. They have two groups of Angus-Hereford crossbreeds that motorists might share the highways with briefly every couple of weeks. Moody County deputies help by blocking traffic and keeping everyone safe for the times the cattle have to run down the highway, clicking their hooves on the hard surface.
Cattle are observant critters.
They tend to notice anything that sticks out as unusual, including me when I stood along the road where they entered the highway to run west toward Egan and the harvested field full of the promise of forgotten corn. They weren’t afraid to stare and sometimes even stop briefly and really check me out.
Mostly, they were curious no matter how still I stood, taking their picture simply because it was the kind of day that seemed just right for a cattle drive.