This month, Bruce and I joined hordes of people flocking to Logan Airport on our way to visit with family in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We aren't the only ones who left our farm this week. Two days after our departure, nine of our Scottish Highlanders were on the road to California.
We decided last July that January would be an excellent time to travel. Except for daily feeding and checking for frozen water troughs, farm chores are less demanding in January. We booked our flights, reserved a car, and looked forward to our escape. Then just weeks before our departure, I got a call from Michelle Miller, an energetic and successful California businesswoman in search of a Scottish Highlander cow or two.
Michelle called me, interested in buying some of my cattle. She explained, "I wanted a cow since I was a little girl when I watched 'City Slickers' with my dad. At 40, I finally had a ranch and found a heifer calf rejected by her mother. I brought her to my ranch, and even though she was a girl, I named her Norman. I bottle-fed her, cuddled with her for afternoon naps by the pool, and ran around on the lawn with her and the dogs. These were the happiest memories. I felt like a kid again!"
Michelle was happy but knew Norman needed a "cow friend," so she looked for one online and found the Miles Smith Farm website. She liked that we "treat cows like family" and fell in love with Zippy, a calf I'd listed for sale. "He looks like a giant teddy bear, and I decided he'd be a perfect companion for Norman and me," she said.
Over the phone, I explained to Michelle that this seemed like an impossible situation. Other Californians had tried to buy cattle from me, but I always declined, not because of the distance, but because of the strict California automotive emission control regulations. Jonathan Lippert of Lippert Trucking said, "They check everything; the truck's exhaust, all emission control sensors, everything. With more restrictive regulations than any other state, it gets seized if your truck doesn't pass. We won't transport animals to California."
That did not deter Michelle and her quest for Scottish Highlanders, which she describes as "the cutest cow in the world." She put a deposit on Zippy, Denali, a white six-month-old Highlander, and four other Highlanders for a total of six bovines. Then the hunt began to find a shipper. Within days she emailed me with a solution.
Michelle did what I could not. She found a trucker who would pick up the cattle in New Hampshire. To fill up the trailer, Michelle asked, "Got any more?"
She was not a force to be denied. I had another cow-calf pair I hadn't listed on the website, but she convinced me to sell them. I even agreed to sell her Zippy's mother, Acorn, one of my top cows. I figured the best long-haul companion for a 2-month-old calf would be his mother. In the end, the cattle count was nine!
Bob May, the trucker Michelle found, planned to drive from New Hampshire to San Miguel in four days, including rest stops for the cattle, not to visit the bathroom, but to rest from the constant motion of a moving trailer.
Michelle is not just a rancher. She owns Vintage Boho Bags, a company that sells Louis Vuitton bags enhanced with an added fringe (fringe is another name for Scottish Highlander bangs). Guess what Zippy's new name is? Louis!
"NOBODY has Highland cows in California. Can't you see Louis on the beach?" said Michelle.
Fortunately, we didn't have to cancel our travel plans because farm friends and Pembroke Animal Hospital stepped up to help make sure the cattle had their health certificates and proper identification (ear tags) before leaving New Hampshire.
So, my hairy cows with "fringes" on top will soon be pampered pets, basking in the sun and sipping Margaritas by the pool at San Miguel, California. Besides health certificates and extra halters, what do I pack for their trip? The answer for Louis was easy; sunglasses!
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at email@example.com