The cows weren't expecting this. There they stood, in the pre-dawn winter darkness, looking aimless and sleepy in the middle of the snowy field. Our boots crunched in the ice-crusted snowdrifts as we approached the top of the hill. We would have to be decisive. We would have to be swift.
But it's hard to be swift when you're moving a 4-foot-diameter 500-pound bale. No matter how deep the cleats are on your boots, it's hard to gain purchase in ice and snow. By the time I'd brushed the snow off the plastic-wrapped bale and rocked it loose from the ground, those cows--in spite of the darkness--were acting suspicious.
So, we pushed. The Piper and I leaned our shoulders into the bale, muckling on as well as we could with our gloved hands. We paused to re-plant our feet and rocked the bale some more. Finally, we leveraged that behemoth up...and...over...so that it rolled two full revolutions down the hill. Unfortunately, it was headed exactly NOT towards the pasture gate.
Pause for another correction. The Piper and I stand at opposite "corners" of the bale and push, slowly spinning it a quarter-turn until it's aimed in the right direction. Now the cows are lined up at the gate, snorting and tossing their forelocks. Iona, queen of the cattlefold, firmly plants herself at the fore.
Cows are not good at physics. I suspect their phenomenal digestion is the primary location of their intelligence. No, perhaps that's unfair-- there's nothing in their primal cognition to help them respond when a pair of two-leggeds starts rolling a giant marshmallow down the hill towards the pasture gate before dawn. We had the right voices, at least, so we weren't intruders... and when we sliced the haywrap just before the final push through the gate, those cows caught the clean vinegarish scent that announced incoming food. Hunger and curiosity dictated their subsequent arrangement.
And so it was that, when we gave the final push, that bale rolled down the hill, through the gate, farther down the hill with gathering speed, and...smacked broadside into that poor silly heifer. She gave a surprised wee jump forward, then turned around and stared reproachfully (balefully?) at the still-wrapped bale. I hustled down into the field and pulled off the haywrap. As the tasty contents were revealed, the heifer hung back and stared a minute more--just long enough for me to pull the wrapper off and out of the way--then moved in, determined to bite her breakfast right back.
So this is how the New Year begins: with rolling bales, chores before dawn, well-fed cows, strong women, leverage and surprises. We're ready, even if the cows aren't. Bring it on!!!