Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just the Facts, Ma'am.

We raise goats. You knew that, right? Okay so this really isn’t about goats, it’s about our new neighbor. But, understanding that we raise goats explains some of what follows.

We own ten acres along a river. Our property is bordered on two sides by state wilderness land. There was a huge controversy over access rights and other issues when the state expanded their holding, essentially cutting us off from our property, which they also coveted. Without all the messy details, we have access down an otherwise closed road. You pull up to a gate, flash a proximity card up to a black box thingie and the gate opens. Two other property owners have access through this gate. Otherwise only state and county vehicles can enter. There is pedestrian access and a nature trail of sorts, but no other motorized access. A few intrepid motorcyclists have forced their bikes up a very steep hill and gotten in there, but they usually get caught. The fine is stiff and not worth the effort.

The property to the west of us is accessed from another direction. I’ve known the owner for years. He’s an old-timer here, a gentle sort of cowboy with a criminal past who finally grew up sometimes around sixty. He’s in his mid eighties now. Last month he leased the land to someone I’d never met. Now that I have, I’m sorry to have made his acquaintance.

The new tenant runs cattle on the land. It’s not a large herd, about twenty cows and calves by rough count. I met him for the first time last week. He’s tall, a bit thick in the middle, Mexican by birth, and obnoxious. Some things put me off no matter what. I understand that small-time ranching and farming can get you filthy. Want to come help me rake out the goats’ “hot bed”? Of course you don’t. Okay … so I know that grunge doesn’t mean you’re personally dirty. But this guy’s hair hasn’t been washed in months. I swear it’s true.

Anyway, he struts over to the fence. I know this walk. I deal with others who adopt it. It’s the Hispanic Gangster strut. Adopting it gives him two strikes before he opens his mouth. Oh, and you have to understand that the fence is an eight foot chain-link affair built as a spite fence long before this land came to us. But it’s in good shape and serves an otherwise useful purpose. So … he struts over to the fence and whistles shrilly to get my attention, motioning me over as if I were a disobedient child.

He tells me he’s going to take the fence down so he can get access down our road. First, this fence does not belong to him or to the man from whom he’s leasing. It belongs to me. I patiently explain that he doesn’t own the fence, that it’s not even on the property line but four feet inside it, that it’s my fence, that he will not take it down, that he cannot have road access because of the state access agreement, that I wouldn’t let him use our private road anyway because of right-of-way issues. He insists that he’s going to take it down. I finally tell him, “take it down; go to jail.” And I walk off. He calls me an offensive name in Spanish. I walk back to the fence and explain carefully and calmly that I’m no one’s whore, that I will not spread by legs for him or anyone else, figuratively or literally, and remind him that he is four feet into my land. Step back, I say to him. Surprisingly he does.

Now there is a fence on the property line. It’s a single strand electric fence that has been turned off since the actual owner of the other pasturage stopped running cattle and horses there. I tell Mr. Hispanic big-mouth that I’m turning it back on to keep his cows from shoving into the chain link fence. He insists I cannot do that either. I politely tell him that I can and will. I suggest to him that if he doesn’t want to be zapped he should step back on the other side now.

The electric fence operates on a pulse system. About once a second an electric pulse is sent down the line. I walk up the fence line to the box. He follows me, insisting that he will have his own way. I reach the control box. “This would be a good time to step back onto your side of the fence,” I say sweetly. He grunts. I wait about 20 seconds. “Are you stepping back?” I ask. He shrugs. I flip the switch. You can hear the beat of the pulse in the control box.

Stupid man.

So, now he says, “Hey! How’m I going to get out of here!”

“Carefully,” I say. “And don’t pee on the fence. Bad idea to pee on the fence.”

He gets down on all fours and shimmies under the wire.

That was last week. Yesterday I stop to feed the animals. I’m on my way home, tired and cranky from a long, busy night.

I find him with brush piled against the chain link fence. He’s cut the electrical fence and built a bon fire against the chain link fence. I don’t even talk to him. He waves at me and adds more brush to the bon fire. I do two things. I call 911 and ask for a county deputy. I call the property owner and ask him to get out there and see what his new tenant is doing. By the time I’m off the phone a deputy is on his way and so is John P. the property owner.

While I’m making this call, Mr. Gangster Strut is shouting at me: “Hey! Hey! Who ya callin’? Who ya callin’?”

I ignore him and walk down to our front gate to wait for the Sheriff’s deputy. While I’m waiting down at the front gate I see John P’s truck up on the ridge. He’ll get there first, so I leave the gate open and head back the fence line. By the time I get there John is out of his truck and yelling at Mr. Mexi-gangster the wannabe cowboy.

Now a thought occurs to me. We have a brand inspector. Most western states do, I suppose. Now their “mission” is “to provide asset protection for the livestock industry by recording brands, licensing feedlots and public livestock markets and by conducting surveillance and inspection of livestock at time of sale and upon out of state movement.” I have the number in my speed dial list.

In this state brands are more often than not ear tags. I don’t know of anyone who actually burns a brand into their cattle. It’s much more high tech than that. I’ve already noticed that “his” cows have three different styles of ear tag. This doesn’t mean anything of itself, but it never hurts to check – right? So I call.

“Contrary to popular belief, the law does not allow you to ‘keep’ livestock if you can not locate the owner.” – State Animal Law web site.

John P. sees me and leaves off abusing Mr. Mexi-gangster. “Miss Rachael, I’m awfully sorry. I’ll have this all fixed.”

“John, if you just get him off your land and out of my hair, I’ll be happy.”

“I have a lease!” Mr. Mex shouts.

“You’ve broken it in a dozen ways,” John says. “I want you off this land. You have two weeks to get your cows out of here.”

I think Mr. Mexi-gangster is going to explode. He turns white, clinches his fists down to his side. These are bad signs. In my experience a blanched face marks danger. A red face, and the real danger is past.

At this point the deputy shows up. I’ve done ride-alongs with most of the deputies. I pestered the sheriff for months over being a reserve deputy. I’m too short and underweight, he says. We finally reached a compromise. I am one, but I am never on my own. I think he likes my blond hair, actually. (Humm … I hope he doesn’t know I have a blog.) He drives over to the fence and slowly gets out of his car. This is Phil. Phil is under-sheriff, which means he’s the boss when the boss is away. (Okay so Phil isn’t anything like his real name. But we’ll call him Phil anyway. He looks like a Phil.)

Explanations are made. I file a complaint. I mention that I called the brand inspector’s office. Phil asks Mr. Mexi if the cows are his. Mr. Mexi just nods. “Hope you can prove it,” Phil says.

Phil asks me to estimate the damage to the two fences. I say that while we could splice the electric fence, it would be best to restring it. I estimate that at a thousand dollars. Phil raises an eyebrow. If we were to replace the stretch of now heat warped chain link fence it would take a contractor, I say. I don’t know how much, but I’d bet well over a thousand dollars. It’s a wild guess. I really don’t have a clue. However, the combined total makes this a Class B Felony.

“First degree malicious mischief is a Class B felony and is a seriousness level II which means that if you have no criminal record you may be sentenced to 2-6 months in prison.”

“Well Mr. Mex,” Phil says, “I’m not going to arrest you today, but I am issuing you a ticket for Criminal Malicious Mischief. You will be required to appear in court. If you fail to appear a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Do you understand?” (Consider this all very abbreviated.)

Mr. Mexi-fried sputters. He says he won’t sign the ticket. He is told that if he refuses to sign, he goes to jail now. He signs.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. … I’m guessing he’s gone. I’m guessing the cows aren’t all his. I’m guessing he’s halfway to Mexico.

The moral of this story is, Never EVER upset a Pixie.


  1. If I was single, I would drive down there and ask you to marry me so we could have ten children.

    Alas, it is not meant to be, but that was awesome!

  2. I won't go as far as to say I want to marry Sha'el and have bunches of pixie children. I think the knobby-kneed scot might have an objection to that.

    I would like to meet face-to-face one day.

    In the meantime I love reading how you handle obnoxious people in a manner much better than they deserve.

    P.S. My wife is not a pixie, but she is another female that you do not want to upset.

  3. ~cheering~
    What a pleasure to read!

  4. Well done Rachael. Well done.