It's not an unusual occurrence in the country. Sometimes, stretching for that next bite of juicy grass, a cow will find itself on the other side of a fence, separated from the herd (and the hay and the water), clueless as to how she got where she is or how to get back.
Yesterday, driving home from my monthly recycling errand (another country chore: I can contract to have trash picked up, but not recyclables, so once a month I pile newspapers and glass in the back of the Jeep and take them down to Greenville, not because it is the closes recycling center but because the backroads I have to take to get there are the prettiest), I came upon a cow in the road. A calf actually, and the poor thing looked forlorn (although I've never seen what I would call a happy cow, so "forlorn" might be projecting too much). If not forlorn, then certainly confused. She looked at me, pleadingly, I thought. Flies buzzed on her back and face. She drooled and mooed. I drove slowly alongside, feeling vaguely cowboyish, attempting to herd her off the road and into the next driveway. She stopped, having none of that, so I pulled in, knocked on the door, hallooed, went out back to the barn, ignored the barking dogs in their chain-link kennel, and the chickens wandering around the yard, greeted the kitten on the porch (who, it seems, had just knocked over a large potted plant), but I found no one home. The cow looked at me from the road. Expectantly. (I remembered the one other time this happened. My sister and brother-in-law were visiting and we came upon three cows in the road, adults who should have known better, I thought. We found the farmer at a nearby house and he sprang into action. Mike, who grew up on a farm and probably would know this sort of thing anyway, said that the thing to do would be to put feed in a metal bucket and rattle it noisily, to lead the cow home. I use this trick when Bhikku, my chocolate lab, is out wandering in the field. He won't respond to my calls, but he'll hear dinner a mile away.)
Nothing to be done about this calf, though. It's not like you can lift a stray cow into the car and take her home with you. So, just a few minutes from home, I hurried back and called the Sheriff, who found nothing the least bit unusual about the whole thing and said a deputy would head out immediately.
Now, the main thing about this story that appeals to me is that I wrote a short story last year that will be coming out this December in The Baltimore Review, called "Heading for Home." In my story, a cow is shot by some teenagers and the deputy is called to investigate. The deputy tries to keep a straight face while talking about the murdered cow, but he just can't do it. Could you?