Our first home, well, the first one we bought after a few apartments when we were first married, was a nice little ranch house on Brice's Prairie in Wisconsin. It was in a small development area on nice flat prairie land between the bluffs and near the river. At the end of our street was a dairy farm. I suppose that all the land used to belong to this farmer, since his barn was pretty close to the main road. We were about the fifth house in from the end of the main road.
It was a pretty drive to and from our home and work in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where I was a teachers' aide. I had been a teacher in Maine, but when we moved I had to start over and there were not jobs...but that is another story. Anyway, the huge bluffs, the flat in-betweens, the Mississippi River - all of these were common sights on our drives. Beautiful farms tucked away in valleys at the base of the bluffs, and farms perched on top of the bluffs lay like undulating quilt squares. You know Stevenson's poem The Land of Counterpane...well, that's Wisconsin and Minnesota on the Mississippi River.
We were young and newly married when we bought this first house and were not really versed in the care and maintenance of lawns. Our older neighbor, however, was. My husband stopped to chat with him one afternoon. He had a beautiful lawn, so very well kept. And ours was a mass of tangle-haired grass with yellow dandelion pigtails poking out all over it. He told my husband that he'd finally gotten rid of all the dandelions on his lawn. He was probably prompting my husband to ask how he did it. Truly, we didn't even think he was trying to hint about anything. So I can imagine what he thought of us when my husband laughed and told him he'd have more when ours all went to seed. It really was just a statement of fact. Yes, it was dense now looking back on it. We really never talked to him again, and I never did meet his wife. But we didn't stay long there, so that could be the real reason why we didn't get to know them better.
It wasn't long after that conversation with the immaculate-lawn neighbor that we got an inkling of how differently we were maintaining our lawn compared to others. Early, early morning (if you can call 4 am morning), I awoke to a noise I'd never heard before. There was a rustling sound and low moans coming from outside our bedroom window. I woke my husband, and we peeked out the window above our bed. Just barely visible in the pre-morning light, we could make out white irregular shapes slowly moving about, lots of them. And now the moaning, with awakened ears, was heard as the mooing of cows. The scene was coming together as we squinted and listened. Our front lawn was covered with black and white cows grazing on our lush lawn. There was not a single cow on any other lawn in the neighborhood. They had broken out of the pasture down the street and headed straight to our house. Forget the other 39 lawns in our development. Why would they stop anywhere else? Everyone knew the grass was always greener, grew longer and had tastier dandelion greens on our side of the fence.
"Come on everyone, let's go to the Smith's house! "
I wondered how long they'd been planning this great escape.
Or... and this is truly, as I'm writing this, the first time I've thought of this possibility in the 38 years since we lived there...could it have been our neighbor? Could he have let them out?
Oh, that would have been perfect. I kind of hope it was! We deserved it; though we did get the benefit of a well fertilized lawn that night...
We moved to a house farther out in the country shortly after the cow invasion. Our neighbors there had cows, too, but the cows never came to visit. We had grown up a little more. We'd purchased a lawn mower. No more lawn moo-ers for us!