Friday, June 01, 2007

When describing...

...the town where I grew up in New Jersey (insert your own joke here), I often refer to it as "a small Midwestern town, transplanted to the Northern New Jersey woodlands" -- which I have always felt was a reasonable description of West Milford Township (still "my hometown" at least in my head) -- at least when you factor in the notion that it's more my IDEA of what a small, Midwestern town is like, anyway.

Never has that been more true than today. I give you this piece from the Bergen Record:

Cow still running wild in W. Milford

Friday, June 1, 2007

By MICHAEL J. FEENEY
STAFF WRITER

For one evening, it was the Wild Wild West -- West Milford, that is.

There was the swarm of true-grit horse riders in Stetsons. There was the trail boss with a lasso and a gun. It was like an old-fashioned cattle drive.

The only thing missing -- again -- was the cow.

Despite the best efforts by about 20 riders combing woods and fields, a black cow continued to run wild through the township as night fell Thursday.

The escapee from a cow-herding horse competition has been out there for almost a month, getting fat on the foliage and posing a potential danger to motorists. And the posse had saddled up with one goal in mind – bring 'er in.

The cowpokes, looking smart in their western hats, doused in bug spray and astride their personal horses -- many specifically trained to herd cattle -- started out by cantering gently down a heavily wooded area, just off Gould Road and Union Valley Road, where the cow has been spotted numerous times.

But after a nearly two-hour search of the rocky and wooded terrain, it was time to admit failure.

"It was disappointing, but we'll try it again tomorrow," said John Macellaro of the Passaic County Sheriff's Department Auxiliary Mounted Unit, who organized the townshipwide cow hunt.

"It's becoming a nuisance," he said of the elusive bovine. "You just don't want the cow running out into the road and killing somebody."

Past searches have failed to get close to the wary animal. Police say one motorist has reported hitting the nearly 600-pound cow, which likely has gotten bigger since being out in the woods. Driver and cow were reported to be OK, but the car sustained significant damage.

Macellaro, who is certified in search and rescue, had made up a map grid to help strategically plan the search. The riders split up into four groups with high hopes that this time someone would locate the cow, which had been spotted as recently as Thursday morning. If they did, they would call in Macellaro, who had the goods to bring the critter in.

"There's more power in numbers," said Macellaro, riding his horse Snorty like a true cowboy, wearing spurs and a cowboy hat. "I got a rope and a tranquilizer gun. We really just want to catch him for the guy [owner Frank Battipaglia]."

Macellaro hoped the horses could find the cow and chase the animal around until it is tired and then he could move in with rope or tranquilizer.

The cow has been on the loose since May 6, when she jumped a fence during a cattle-herding horse competition at the West Milford Equestrian Center, owned by Frank and Ella Mae Battipaglia.

The all-black bovine with a cloth number zero tagged to its hide has been nearly impossible to catch, despite many close encounters with Frank Battipaglia, who has said the cow runs away when it sees him.

The cow doesn't belong to the Battipaglias. It's actually one of a small herd they rented from a Monticello, N.Y., livestock competition for the penning competition held in an indoor arena at the equestrian center.

Each of the cattle are tagged with a number, and competing horsemen use their skills to drive the cows into a pen at one end of the arena.

Kathy Leaver, who also organized the search, said, "We've been going out two or three times a week looking for the cow, just for fun. She needs to be caught."

Leaver said all the riders rode their personal horses, which are kept at Echo Lake Stables, a small ranch community in the Newfoundland section of the Highlands township.

Leaver and Macellaro own the stable.

Leaver, riding Aspen, was optimistic their biggest search would turn up with some positive results. She shouted, "Let's go guys, mount up," while reminding the riders the sun would be down by about 8:20 p.m.

Despite the results, Marta Samsel, riding Midnight Sky, was still smiling after the search ended.

"The cow was an excuse to go and have fun," she said.

Although the search didn't have a happy ending, Macellaro concluded, "We did see a lot of cow manure. Now we have a pretty good idea where she's been hanging."

And, naturally, just as everyone was parting ways and the horses were being loaded into trailers, another sighting came in.

Reason for another cattle drive, soon.

Copyright © 2007 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

So, um, there you go. We have some traffic lights now too, you know... (Freebird!) Thanks to my mom for sending that along.

Happy Trails!

2 comments:

originalwebb said...

You know what you see a lot less in stories about the midwest than in stories about New Jersey?

"[owner Frank Battipaglia]"

JAM said...

Hey, I'm herdin' cows ovah here! Fuggetaboutit.