Why “Ninja Cow?”

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The tanned hide of the famous Ninja Cow

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The Ninja Cow, now immortalized as a rug.

People ask where we came up with the name Ninja Cow Farm. It wasn’t our original name. Before we bought our farm it was called Big Rock Ranch. After we bought it, it was called Triple M Ranch for many years. However in 2011 we had the displeasure of meeting the Ninja Cow and that’s when things changed. Here’s the story, slightly shorter than Homer’s Odyssey, but not by much.

My darling wife and children accompanied me on one of the annual CFSA farm tours, I believe it was the Piedmont tour. I knew we were looking for a new breed of cow as the cows we raise had been a closed herd for about 30 years. It was time to stretch out and try some new blood lines. As we went from farm to farm, having a rather large time, I kept my eye out for any breeds that I could ask the farmer about.

As we pulled onto Ray Family Farm all the women in the car started squealing as they saw the belted galloways. “Daddy! What about those cows! They’re so CUTE!” As the only experienced cattleman in the vehicle, I calmly lied to everyone and told them that belted galloways were not beef cows and no, we couldn’t have one.

So we step out of the car and two young girls have a few young calves penned up. My wife gets out and asks the closest girl, “What are these cows used for?” “Beef,” she replies. Defeated I go in search of the farmer to inquire about purchasing belted galloways.

I didn’t end up working a deal with Chad Ray, so I went on Craigslist and found a guy almost to Virginia that had some galloways for sale. A three hour drive later I’m looking at some decent cows and decided to make the purchase. We could only get three cows in my trailer as the fourth wasn’t able to be captured. This becomes important later but at the time the guy says he’ll deliver the last cow to me, no charge. Nice.

So about a week later I’m expecting my farmer to deliver this cow. It’s the middle of a workday and I’m running from meeting to meeting. I have about 30 minutes to meet the guy, go to the farm, let the cow out into our barn paddock, pay the guy, and get back to work. The guy is also similarly rushed.

So I receive a call that some guy is downstairs asking for me about a cow. I hightail it down and meet my cattle salesman. When I get outside I see that this cow is not too pleased about it’s confinement. In fact I get the distinct impression this cow, should it have been armed, would have started World War III. Must of have the ride down, I think. This cow doesn’t like trailers or this guy can’t drive. No matter, once she’s on the farm and sees her other friends, she’ll calm down. The easiest person to fool is yourself, I’ve learned.

So we go out to the farm, close all the gates, and get ready to release this cow into the barn paddock. Now I have to explain for those who have not visited our farm. It’s 84 acres, half wooded, half pasture. The barn is smack dab in the middle of the farm. The entire farm is surrounded by cattle fence with barbed wire. There is one road on and off the farm, and it’s gated. When you’re in the barn paddock, you may as well be in central prison.

So we open the gate to the trailer to let the cow out. Most cows you have to nudge out of the trailer. They want out, but don’t like new things, don’t like stepping down and off of a trailer, etc. This cow nearly takes the gate off of it’s hinges and is on the ground before I can blink. She immediately goes to the closest fence and crashes into it and bounces off. Ok, so she’ll need a few minutes to calm down.

She turns one circle and then heads for a gap between the barn and a small paddock. Now understand, when I say small, I mean that I MAY be able to get through there myself, if I turn sideways, hold my breath, and I had a tofu salad for lunch. If there was cheese on my salad, no way could I fit.

So the 1000 lb cow heads for this gap, gets her head in and then the legend of the Ninja Cow begins. Before my eyes I watched this cow go through that gap, not only getting through, but her sides didn’t touch! This is a gap that 1 month old calves have avoided for years because they can’t fit. When this was all over I went back to the gap and checked, no hair on the screw heads, she really didn’t touch.

So I look at my cattle salesman, with much more distrust in my eyes and he just stares blankly at me. I go and grab the gator to get ahead of this cow, dragging this guy along with me. I should mention that on that day, it was pretty cold and in the rush neither of us are dressed for being outdoors.

So I crank the gator and go to take off and it dies. That’s when I remember that there is something wrong with the gator and it has no power. Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to get that fixed. I manage to coax the gator along as I watch the cow pass my house and head into the woods. Most cows, once they get away from you just a bit will stop, look around, maybe eat. Not this cow, it’s head down and moving.

I circle around the cow on our long driveway and catch up to it at the gate. This cow, which has been on my farm for about 30 seconds, has now managed to escape confinement, magically reduce it’s size to fit through an area that a 3rd grader would have to suck in his gut, and has successfully navigated across my yard, through the woods, and come out directly to the gate which is the only way off the farm.

But the gate is closed so it’s the end of the line. I step off the gator and begin the process of trying to get the cow turned around so we can walk her back to the barn. The cow takes a look at me and I see the wheels turning in her head. She turns and goes up about a 70 degree bank, jumps the wrought iron fence, lands on the other side and proceeds to go across Old Stage Road, narrowly missing a car that by all the bad luck in the world is being driven by my mother-in-law who just happened to be driving by.

I stand there dumbfounded. I’ve never seen anything like this. I couldn’t have gone up that embankment with climbing gear and someone to belay me. Back to the gator and the chase ensues. The cow has now gone into the trailer park across the street and we follow with our limping gator.

I pull out my phone, which my IT guy has just upgraded for me, and dial for some help. I receive, “I’m sorry, your phone has not been registered on the Verizon network…” I stare at it in confusion. I’ve had this phone for years. The upgrade, I hadn’t used it since the upgrade. Arggh! I get my obviously frozen cattle purveyors phone, look up numbers on my phone, dial on his phone, drive, and curse (I can multi-task, just not well, my cursing was not original nor eloquent.)

I call my guy who works on the farm so he can come and help. After a few rings he answers so I start barking things I need him to do. When I take a breath he reminds me he took the day off and is in Charlotte, in court, with his family. Arghh! We’re still chasing this cow, who has never paused, never slowed, never looked back.

At this point I decide that things are getting out of hand and I may need professional help. I have visions on being on the 6 o’clock news, sky 5 hovering overhead describing the scene. While I’m having that internal struggle, the cow makes it to the back of the trailer park, which is no small feat. She takes one look at me and dives down a six foot deep ditch and climbs back up the other side onto the fairway at Eagle Ridge golf club to continue her dash to freedom. Defeat.

I get animal control on the phone while I nurse my broken gator back to the farm. Miraculously, animal control is right around the corner and meets us at the club house at Eagle Ridge where we commandeer a golf cart to begin riding the fairways looking for the ninja cow.

I have to pause here and inform you that Eagle Ridge is sort of our neighborhood. It’s owned by one of my customers, my kids play with many of the kids there, some of our best friends live in Eagle Ridge. They know me there.

As I ride with the animal control officer and the cow swindler, I’m picturing the calls I’m going to receive from all my friends about this cow running through people’s back yards. However, after two hours of searching, we only locate one person who has seen the cow and that was just after she appeared from the ditch we’d followed her into. This 1000 lb cow, with a bright white stripe across her middle, went through a golfing community of about 800 homes in the middle of a sunlit day and one guy saw it. One guy!

After hours of searching, we called off the hunt and decided that the cow was simply gone, last seen heading South West towards highway 401. And so began a program of me driving by farms and houses in the area looking for my cow. This went on for about a month and a half with no sight of my errant cow.

Then one night, about 3 am my house phone rings. It’s my friend the deputy sheriff who is at my front gate which is apparently impervious to 6’5” armed law enforcement officers but of no concern to a ninja. The kindly deputy informs me that my cows are out and standing in Old Stage Road and could I please come down and put them back.

On with the overalls and work boots and down to the road I go. As I follow the friendly blue lights I find another deputy blocking Old Stage Road. Standing in Steve Fowler’s front yard (that’s the multi-million dollar estate just down from my place with the manicured lawn) is an entire herd of black angus cows. Relief floods my mind as I note that they are in fact not my cows. A bit of extra relief since Steve Fowler was at one time one of the largest potential customers in my trade area and despite his exit from our industry, I still don’t need my cows tromping his perfect grass.

I tell the deputy that the cows aren’t mine and we determine that they must be Percy Johnson’s, another neighbor and another customer. I stay with the cows while the deputy goes and wakes Percy up. While I’m standing there, I see a flash of white amongst all the black cows. In the back of the herd, shifting in and out of focus stands the ninja cow!

Once Percy is awake the two deputies, Percy, and I begin to corral the cows towards Percy’s property and into his paddock. There is no small amount of tripping, bonking into trees, and good natured ribbing. Well, as much ribbing as you can do to an armed and armored law enforcement officer. After about two hours, all the cows are back into the paddock except, you guessed it, the ninja cow. Two cattle men, and two uniformed officers lost the ninja cow and nobody knows where she went. The legend grows.

As daylight breaks, I talk to Percy who informs me that the ninja cow had wandered onto his property a few weeks back and had actually gotten into one of his paddocks. He simply locked the gates on the paddock and figured he’d deal with her in the morning. The next morning when he got within 75 feet of her, she turned and blasted through one of his fences and disappeared over the hill. A fence that like mine had held cows for many years with no issues. He said he’s never seen anything like it. I of course agreed.

And how did Percy’s cows get out in the first place? The ninja cow, obviously having spent some time working as an enforcer for labor unions, had broken into Percy’s paddock through his fence, agitated his cows by decrying their confinement under “the man” and broken out through another part of his paddock, taking all of her new recruits with her.

However, shortly into their flight for freedom the normal cows had begun to question things like, “Who is going to feed us in the morning?” “We don’t have driver’s licenses, can we walk on the road without a license?” When I happened upon the cows in Steve’s front yard they were apparently in the middle of a crisis of leadership. Fortunately the non-ninja cows had decided their life of leisure was just their speed and as a group had abandoned their life of crime, leaving only the ninja cow on the loose.

And so began a pattern of my dropping by Percy’s every few nights to look for the ninja cow. I’d often find evidence she’d been there, scrapes on the ground, hoof prints, shurikens stuck into trees but I never saw the cow. Some weeks later I received a call from my darling Mrs. saying that a lady was at the farm and she’d seen the ninja cow.

I hopped up from my desk and ran home to meet what turned out to be the realtor for Steve Fowler. She told me she’d run across this cow on her drive in and began to tell me stories of her disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Jaded by now, I simply asked her to show me where so we drove over to Steve’s to locate the cow which of course was gone without a trace. I explained to the realtor that I’d been looking for this cow for months and would be happy to look on Steve’s property but I’d need access daily which she wouldn’t allow. I gave her my card and told her to call Steve and tell him the story and see if he’d let me on his property.

Two weeks later I receive a call on my cell phone from Florida. I’m at lunch with a friend so I excuse myself and answer and sure enough it’s Steve Fowler. After the pleasantries Steve begins to explain his displeasure that my cow is eating his grass and wants to know what I’m going to do about it.

I tell him that I’d be over already searching for the cow but his realtor won’t let me on the property. That I cannot capture the cow, only shoot it. I tell him I didn’t think he’d like to see me on his security cameras carrying a rifle wandering around, nor would he like 1000 lb of dead cow on his lawn because I cannot get into his property to get the cow out. He readily agreed and 30 minutes later I was holding the gate clicker to gain access to his property.

And so began the daily regimen of patrolling Steve’s property with a rifle, then going to Percy’s to do the same, often stopping to help Percy feed his cows or visit for a few minutes.

It was on one of my daily cow stalking trips that I pulled up at Steve’s and clear as day stood the ninja cow in the front yard grazing on Steve’s perfectly manicured lawn. I grabbed my rifle and spent about 30 minutes working my way around and out of sight of the ninja so that I’d have a clear and safe shot and also so that the cow wouldn’t die in the middle of his grass.

I made it to about 100 feet from the cow when she lifted her head to see who was behind her. I snicked the safety off of my rifle and the ninja exploded into action, diving into the nearby woods. I immediately followed knowing that it hadn’t rained in weeks and the ground was covered in dry leaves so I’d be able to track this bovine behemoth through the narrow woods. Arriving within seconds at the spot the cow entered the woods I froze and listened, calling upon my Cherokee heritage to wake my inner tracker and….nothing. Not a sound, not a peep, not a snap. Nothing. Ninja.

About a week later, while helping Percy’s daughter feed his cows after another fruitless hunt, I’m explaining how the ninja cow appears like a ghost and disappears with no sound. In mid-sentence I look up and at the edge of the woods about 75 feet away there stands the ninja cow, still as a statue, having appeared without a sound. I ease to the truck and pull out my rifle. As I snick of the safety, she flinches but that’s all as she drops in her tracks from the head shot. The era of the ninja cow ended there that night although the legend lives on.

And in case anybody wants to know, we worked till midnight butchering that cow, and I spent the next day getting the hide tanned and turned into a rug and grinding hamburger.

Three generations in the kitchen
Three generations of girls, grinding ninja cow into hamburger

And yes, I fixed the place where she escaped originally.

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