What do you do when you see a farmer with stock on the road? Do you slow down or stop? Do you offer to help? Or do you plant foot and try to get past those annoying smelly animals and the red-neck in the funny hat as fast as you can?
I love cows so I think it's cute when I have to drive past some at close range. I can have a good look at them and they make me laugh because there are always some good ones going the correct way and some stupid ones at the back that you just know are going to be troublesome for the poor sucker who's moving them.
Farmers using the road has suddenly become an issue for me as I have signed a four-year lease on a property which involves crossing a reasonably busy road at least twice a day – every day. That is really a two- or three-man job but, as usual, it's just me, so I have to find a way of doing that crossing safely and with the least disruption.
Thankfully, all the locals are au fait with this crossing as it has been that way for the past 40 years (although I expect the road is busier now than it has been).
Like everything, contemplating the road crossing was more stressful than actually doing it. I went off to RD1 and purchased flashing lights, batteries and three "cattle crossing" signs. Yes, three because, as luck would have it, my crossing is not straightforward, but complicated, involving a major junction (Wainui) which offers an alternative escape route for cows that do not want to toe the line.
The preparation routine for the road crossing is a little time consuming as all the safety warning equipment must be fetched and set up in advance and, once the lights are flashing, off I go to get the cows. I can only imagine what the residents of Ahipara think when they see those lights flashing: "I'm going to get caught up in those bloody cows again!"
The first attempt at crossing was with 70 yearlings which was a delicate operation. Calves are nervous little things and, as soon as they hear the sound of their hooves clattering on the hard road, they are liable to panic. My heart was in my mouth as I prayed that it would go well. All the cars duly slowed down and there was a small queue of traffic on either side of the calves who were crossing the road in a delightful manner. I was just breathing a sigh of relief when a driver whom I will call "RSOM" (Ridiculous Stupid Old Man) came to the stop sign at the junction. If he had waited for one minute, probably less, I would have been OK but, no, RSOM decided to drive, albeit slowly, right through the middle. Needless to say that was the last straw for the calves and they scattered in 70 different directions.
I couldn't even look at the silly old coot who nonchalantly drove away leaving me in disarray. I don't expect people to help me – after all it's just me doing my job in a situation that I have chosen, but it is amusing to see everyone sitting in their cars just staring at the chaos. Eventually I sorted it all out.
Thankfully, the milkers are being good, apart from the first time they crossed. Now they know what to do and ignore all the possible escape routes and head directly to the track. Phew.
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