I came out of my house at exactly the right moment to see the cow gallop down the driveway, through the open gates and onto the road. She looked right and left, then headed for the neighbours. They are quiet sorts. The last time I saw the wife, I was returning from a run and gasping for breath while she towed out her wheelie bin on her all-terrain bike thingy. She gave me a wry nod, acknowledging that she'd just used a machine to tow her rubbish bin less than fifty yards. Not a smile or a wave, just a nod. She's a hairdresser.
Anyway, the cow decided she was going to visit these folk because she was on a freedom flight and probably on heat and no electric fence was going to stop her beeline to the bull waiting in the next property over. By the time I'd jogged along the neighbour's drive (shutting the gate behind me just in case) the errant bovine had been locked into a yard by an old bloke staying in a chalet there.
"Go and see Gazza," he said. "He's moving out some horses though. You know how these racehorses can be princesses? You'll need to warn him if Dave the Farmer is coming to pick up his cow. Go up there," he pointed along the drive, past the house, to the sheds. "Head towards that big shed and you'll find him."
"What's his name again?"
I walked past the manicured lawns and gardens to the business end of the property. The place had changed since I was a kid. Back then an old man called Gargie used to shoot the crows on his pumpkin patch. We regularly cracked our teeth on Mum's pumpkin soup or pressure-cooked pumpkin laced with shot. His house and a most excellent mulberry tree have been cleared and replaced with copper-logged horse yards and a corral with a spinning chaff mill that reminded me strangely of Conan the Barbarian, today.
As I neared the shed, I heard the cling clank of metal tools hitting concrete, and then a soft tap tap tap.
I looked in. A man was shoeing a horse, his body bent over the horse's hind hoof. The horse threw up its head at my voice and kicked against the farrier's hold.
"Be with you in a minute," he said in a low voice and I backed out.
He came outside fifteen minutes later. He was a lean, hard man and annoyed at the interruption.
"Hi, I'm Sarah," I said, because over the years we've never had the opportunity to meet beyond a nod. "Dave the Farmer's cow just got out of our paddock and she's shut in one of your yards now. Thought I'd let you know. He'll be here soon to get her."
Droplets of sweat, yellow with dirt, dripped from the end of his nose. He was like a statue, he was so still and carved. As soon as I mentioned the farmer's name his jaw hardened.
"I don't want that cow in my yard," he said.
"I know. I heard you were moving some horses out."
He nodded. He was one of those men whose face and body barely concealed their restrained anger.
"I'll give you ten minutes and then I'll let her out and push her onto the road," he said.
"That's what he'd do. He's a shit neighbour. Done it to my horses, let them out on the road, he has."
"Oh. Okay. Look, she's not my cow, she just stays here."
"He's got cows all around here. He uses everyone up. Get her out in ten minutes or she's on the road. I'd prefer to drive out the cow, than have that man on my property."