Evaporated Milk by Charlotte Ferrell Smith
Charleston Daily Mail ............. Tuesday September 20, 2005
MILTON, WV: As she rode to her new home, Winnie watched through the holes of a trailer pulled by a Dodge truck. A couple of months earlier, she had given birth. Some might speculate that she needed to remember the route so she could go back for the baby. Winnie, a 1,050-pound Charolais, was purchased for $550 Sept. 10 by Windell and Linda Shull, who live on Barker's Ridge. They bought her along with an Angus named Blackie for another $600. They wanted cows to clear their nine acres of land. Windell was tired of mowing and weed eating. However, they decided they didn't need Winnie's calf, Beauty.
They bought the two cows from Windell's brother, Jennings Shull, who lives about 20 miles away on Mud River Road. The two cows seemed to fit nicely with their menagerie of cats, dogs and horses. But when Windell went to feed the cows the following morning, Winnie was gone. An inspection of the fence revealed a tree had fallen on a section, leaving a hole big enough for a cow to squeeze through. At first, the Shulls figured she was grazing in a neighbor's pasture. Then they started getting calls. Winnie had been spotted in several areas. There was even a 911 call regarding a cow in the road in Milton.
However, the elusive Winnie managed to keep meandering along. "She went down Barker's Ridge and was seen going down Dudley Gap Road to Milton," Linda said. "She traveled through woods and through people's yards. Altogether, she went a little over 20 miles." Windell continued to follow leads regarding Winnie's whereabouts. Finally, she was seen a quarter of a mile from the home of Jennings Shull. However, she was on the wrong side of Mud River. With an instinctive tracker like a global positioning satellite, it's not inconceivable a cow could navigate her way back to where she started, said Joe Starcher, the state veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture. Out west, cattle that are taken miles away from home to graze are left to their own devices to find their way back to the ranch, Starcher noted.
Winnie, a cow drawn by motherly impulse, would have had to navigate even more difficult obstacles such as highway bridges, Starcher said. "If she could cross interstate bridges and everything, I think it's a realistic story," he said. "To find her way back to the spot where she was originally within a 20 mile area is plausible."
Wayward Winnie finally was retrieved when Windell -- assisted by two brothers and a nephew -- managed to capture her by tying a rope around the calf and leading Beauty in the direction he wanted the mother to go.
"The calf bawled, and she followed it to the truck," Windell said.
Winnie and Beauty were so happy to be reunited that Linda and Windell reconsidered how many cows they needed to graze in their pasture.
"I felt sorry for the calf and the cow," Linda said. "I wanted the calf, too."
So, they shelled out another $200 for the 250-pound baby.
Winnie's two-day journey was not without mishap. Barbed wire fences and brush left cuts on her sides and scratches on her sack. But she couldn't be happier. Winnie and Beauty now graze side by side swishing happy cow tales.
"They're going to stay together," Linda said.