Outside the Wire

On the lam. Off the reservation. Outside the wire. Any time a rancher hears these three words, or worse, a rancher’s wife early Sunday morning, it’s going to be a long day. All these phrases mean the same thing; “Your cow’s out!” And any way you say it that means work. Oh, I suppose my Sunday mornings always start out nice enough.

I sleep in, maybe until 4:30, and enjoy my coffee in the morning’s hush. I get my “God time” in, and down my fourth cup of coffee before settling in to watch two Sunday morning spiritual programs. Then it’s time to go feed the livestock. When the 8 o’clock hour rolls around, I start my pre-church chores. The animals have become accustomed to my feeding about 90 minutes later than usual on Sunday mornings. I can’t tell you how they know it’s Sunday, but they’re not as insistent for me to come outside on those mornings.

My typical Sunday morning routine is to feed the livestock, make rounds, and then come inside and get ready for church. This Sunday morning was proving to be anything but typical. Bubba the chocolate lab and I feed the weaning calves in the north pasture in front of our home first. We then make our way past the barns to the west pasture to feed “the big guys.” As usual, many of them gather near the pond so they can make a short walk to the feedlot for morning rations. That’s when I noticed one lone cow on the far side of my pasture.

When they’re a hundred yards away, it takes a minute to figure out which one it is. Not this morning. Given color and size, that has to be “Mavric.” For those new to visiting our Cross-Dubya ranch, “Mavric” is my 2,300-pound Red Angus bull. He’s a pedigreed gentle giant who sires some of the prettiest calves in Delta county Texas (at least in this old rancher’s opinion). “Mavric, what the heck are you up to over there buddy? You know it’s breakfast time.” Even though I called out to him, he just stood there looking at me.

Puzzled, I took a longer look across the pasture. I wondered, What’s that white spot on his side? Hoping he wasn’t injured, it took a second for the image to make sense. The white spot was the tip of a steel t-post. That meant my bull was on the other side of the fence. It filled me with dread.

Tearing out across the pasture, the closer I got to the western edge of our property, the worse I started feeling. By the time I made it to the fence line, I was already reaching for my cell phone. “Diane, I will not make it to church this morning. You’ll have to go alone if you’re going. Mavric’s outside the wire.” Click.

As much as ranchers try to build their fences bull strong, when the neighbor has pretty cows and you’ve got a bull who thinks he’s irresistible, any fence gets tested. Add to the mix the neighbor’s bull, and your fence had better be plenty strong. After the last tussle between the two behemoths, I added a heavy strand of electric fence wire on my side of the fence. I reasoned that 8,000 volts of electricity across “Mavric’s” chest would surely slow him down. It worked, until in the middle of the night, one of the neighbor’s cows somehow pulled the hot lead off the fence.

Given I fenced the solar charger off from my cattle, the only thing that made sense is I put the clip too close to the barbed wire. A cow must have reached their head through the fence and given it a taste. That would’ve been a shocking experience for them. With no hot wire to impede him, “Mavric” (I assume) decided he couldn’t withstand the temptation any longer. Mostly, when a cow gets out, you find one or two broken strands of wire that create a hole for the cow to squeeze through. Here, the wires held strong. The steel t-posts didn’t.

What I discovered was three t-posts lifted out of the ground and tossed to the side. This created a 30-foot wide swath of loose strands of barbed wire that my one-ton bull could easily push to the side and walk through. To help you understand, a t-post is a 6.5-foot long post with a flared anchor on the bottom that is driven two feet or more into the ground. I typically use my tractor or a ratcheting puller to get them out of the ground.

About 30 yards south of the damage is “Mavric.” He’s standing on the other side of the fence with a sad look on his face. Standing in a pasture full of goat weed, he was unable to figure out how to get back to his lush green grass and Papa’s feed bucket. I can see he’s scratched up pretty good, with blood down his midline and sides from his battle with the barbed wire. With his thick hide, I know it’s superficial and will heal. My immediate problem is how to get him back on his side while keeping the rest of my cattle and the neighbor’s where they belong.

I rush back across the pasture and put out the feed. As soon as the last cow is in the feedlot, I close and secure the gate. Next, I herd the slow-moving donkeys into the south pasture and trap them there. Then, I rush to the barn and workshop to grab what tools I’ll need. I thank God I spotted the neighbor’s cattle in the woods to the north. Let’s pray they stay there a while longer. With Klein’s, wire puller, t-post driver, shovel, fence clips, some cubes, wire, and butt bat loaded, I head back to my damaged fence.

Removing the remaining fence clips from the posts, I place a push broom under the top three wires; creating a giant-sized opening for my giant-sized bull to walk through. The stretched bottom two wires lay on the ground. Now I can try to entice him through the hole with some feed. Holding out a cube, I urge “Come on Mavric, come getcha some.” While he puts his head through the opening to take the cube, he won’t just walk through as I back away, encouraging him to come get another. As he turns and walks away, I realize I’m going to need help. That’s when a cowboy is grateful for good neighbors.

Unfortunately, it’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning. All my neighbors, you guessed it, are away at church. For 20 minutes, I’m walking around the neighbor’s pasture trying to get “Mavric” to walk up the fence line and go through the opening. Have I mentioned how it’s not smart for a rancher with a heart condition to get all stressed out on a hot summer morning, alone in the middle of nowhere? Mercifully, my neighbor Mr. Tom got my message and had not left for church yet. With help, I might get my bull back without cutting my fence wires.

I stationed my friend Tom near the opening, with the butt bat in his hands. I hoped that Mr. Tom could help direct “Mavric” through the opening when I get him near it. After two failed attempts and another sublingual nitro, I called my neighbor to ask permission to drive my UTV onto his property. With that, I leave Mr. Tom to drive a half-mile down the highway and enter the other pasture.

Locating “Mavric” under a locust tree, I must get him to walk north to the opening in my fence. I soon realize he’s as tired, thirsty, and frustrated by all this as I am, and he’s not moving. Realizing my butt bat is 200 yards away with Tom, the only thing I have is an eight-inch long plastic spoon I feed “Bubba” with. Picture a grizzled old rancher attempting to herd a 2,000-pound bull by smacking the bull’s flanks with a plastic spoon as he tries to walk him down a fenceline. Laughing yet?

After a couple more failed attempts, I move Mr. Tom to my UTV to head “Mavric” off when he passes the opening or wanders away from the fenceline. By this time, my patience with my wandering bull has worn thin. With butt bat in hand, I smack him with an “attention getter” and the bull understands I’ve reached my limit. With him stopped at the opening one more time, I smack him with as powerful a blow as I can muster. It’s enough to persuade him to cross over into his pasture. Success!

Doing what “Mavric” does whenever I discipline him, he heads directly for the pond. He climbs in up to his neck, partly to cool down and to soothe his scratched up and beat upon carcass. This left me and Mr. Tom to repair the fence and re-string the hot wire. By the time my neighbor and I finished repairing the fence, church was long over and we had missed lunch. After letting all the livestock free, I went inside for a shower, a bite to eat, and rest.

As I sat in the recliner with my swollen legs elevated, my only thought was, I have to put a gate in when I replace that fence. Later that evening, after I had settled down a bit, I asked God to show me what I can learn from this trial. The lesson He showed me was in the sad face of my scratched and beaten up bull.

If not controlled, the lure of temptation can lead you into some painful situations when you get outside the wire. Click To Tweet

Ask anyone with military experience and they’ll tell you, you are at most risk when you’re “outside the wire.” The same is true in our spiritual lives. When we succumb to temptation and sin, we no longer live according to God’s will and direction in our lives. When this happens, we place our spiritual lives at risk. In our case, a prayer of repentance can sometimes be as difficult as getting your bull back, but it’s the only way to restore a right relationship with God.

While I couldn’t be angry with my bull for all the trouble he caused, I could learn from it. I moved the positive clip for the electric fence so they can’t reach it from the other side of the fence. I’ll add more steel braces and concrete to make it more difficult to pull out of the ground by a testosterone-driven bull. And yes, I’ll be adding a gate to walk an animal through to my next fence.

The lesson I hope we can each apply to our lives is that when we’re faced with great temptation, we must call upon the Holy Spirit to increase our self-control. We must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and seek His help in withstanding the trials and staying inside the wire in our lives.

I can’t close this post without again thanking my friend and neighbor Mr. Tom Riley for all of his gracious help. One day, God will present me an opportunity to repay your kindness sir.

God’s blessings,

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64 thoughts on “Outside the Wire

    1. Very kind words, every writer wants to hear Ms. Gail. Thank you ma’am. Yes, “Mavric” and I get along quite well. I’ve been tempted a time or two to just hop on his back and go for a ride, but I think friendship and trust only goes so far. LOL Then again, he’ll do almost anything for a treat. Except walk back through the fence he tore up.

  1. J.D., I am out of breath just reading your experiences of that day. I must admit that I was laughing, too. I can picture you racing around trying to get everything under control. Thank you for sharing this story and for reminding us that when we get outside of where God wants us to be, things don’t go well. Have a blessed day!

    1. It was a hectic morning for having started so peacefully Ms. Melissa. Sin has a way of doing that to us though doesn’t it? So glad you enjoyed. Well after the fact, I laughed about it too.

  2. Oh, wow, J. D.! That Mavric certainly gave you a run for your money with his escape. And yet again, you’ve given us another valuable lesson in what it means to be in a right relationship with God. We need to stay inside the wire, that’s for sure.
    And with Gail, I’m so glad your heart withstood all the stress.
    Blessings!

  3. Poor Mavric, I am sure he was happy to be home again under your loving care. I know that feeling too as I return to God after I wander away in search of worldly things. Pray you both recover from your adventures. Thanks for the encouragement

    1. It took him a day or two to quit pouting and staying away from me, but I brought him some horse treats and a flake of hay. We’re buddies again now. It’s something to see this huge animal eat out of your hand and nudge you when he wants another treat. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the lesson ma’am. This one was hard-earned.

    1. Thanks Ms. Ann. I don’t think the info I share about ranching is as helpful as what you share about health and nutrition, but am honored to join you in sharing the spiritual lessons God is teaching us ma’am.

  4. You had me on the edge of my seat with this story! I’m glad everything worked out for you, Mavric, and your neighbor’s livestock. But I’m even more appreciative you found good in the tumultuous events.

  5. Wow, J.D.– I have my respect for the things you do has increased even more than it was. It makes me feel like a lazy slug. The only things that need feeding and care around our house is Diane and me. On the other hand, I do get bull-headed sometimes and find myself in territory that looked appealing, but feels lousy. A couple of other things grabbed my heart and mind from this piece. I love the fact that your neighbors are more than just folks who live close by. Jesus was careful to point out what neighbors do, and yours seems to fit the description. I also love how the Lord doesn’t ignore us when we get outside the wire, and won’t give up until He gets us back where we belong. Thank you for another inspirational glimpse to life around the CrossW, and may God keep you healthy and continue to speak to so many of us through you.

    1. Yessir Mr. Ron. I am blessed indeed to have the neighbors and community we have, here where God led us. As for being bull-headed, my Ms. Diane has to ask to borrow my plastic spoon more often than I would like to admit. 🙂 Am so glad you both enjoyed and appreciated the spiritual lesson also my friend. I was a little “long-winded” in telling this story, but then again, the best stories take time. Thank you sir, and God’s blessings.

  6. My goodness! What an adventurous life you lead!
    Your posts about life at Cross-Dubya and how you relate everything to spiritual matters are so enjoyable and teach me something every time. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    1. Aww shucks. Thank you Ms. Edwina. I love that God has given me a platform where I can share much of what He is teaching me here on the ranch. I’m so glad you enjoy ma’am; and thank you for always sharing them and encouraging me and so many others. I hope we do the same for you ma’am.

  7. my wife was a teen, her neighbors owned a Charolais bull named Chester. He was primarily confined to the barb yard with 8’ wooden fences (likely a wire about 4’ off the ground, too). But now and again Chester would simply jump over the fence.

    Either way, as you point out, being out isn’t good for the bull or the neighbors. Best blessings for your angina, Mr JD. Don’t go galloping around the feed lot!

    1. I’ve heard of bulls jumping a fence, but I’ve never seen one do it Mr. Warren. Don’t think I would want to. Imagine the power it must’ve taken to launch old “Chester” into flight!? Thanks for sharing sir. I can just see that now. 🙂

    1. LOL… He wouldn’t be named “Strider” would he? 😀 I do love how God uses animals and all of nature to teach us wonderful lessons of faith. It makes you think He must’ve created it all with just that in mind.

  8. Thank you, J.D. for another powerful example of how being outside God’s will is never good for me regardless of how attractive it seems.

    1. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed Ms. Kathy. Thank you so much ma’am. It seems that is a lesson that both I am “Mavric” am destined to learn over and over again ma’am. God’s blessings.

  9. Oh J.D. there you go again — captivating your readers with fascinating hapnins around the Cross-Dubya!
    I was sad for Mavric and especially hurting for you. THAT’S HARD WORK and frustrating.
    I hope you’ve fully recovered physically. May we not recover, but always remember the spiritual lesson.

    1. I’m finer’n frog’s hair Ms. Connie; and ol’ “Mavric” is doing pretty well again now too. I just noticed he got up and led his herd back to the pond. It’s time for their afternoon dip in the “Texas Hot Tub” before they go graze for another hour or so. Remembering those spiritual lessons is the important part. That’s for sure ma’am.

  10. Well told, J.D. Whew! this made me tired just reading about your morning. I thought of Jesus’ parable about leaving the 99 for the 1. You shepherd those cattle with such love and diligence. I’m grateful for our Good Shepherd who watches over us foolish sheep and always leads us home.

    1. Yes. I too am so very grateful for God ever-remaining the Good Shepherd in my life. I sometimes wonder if He looks down and thinks the same things about us that I think about my bull. 🙂 God’s blessings sweet friend.

  11. What a harrowing and yet fantastic adventure at your ranch! A perfect picture of our lives here on a planet filled with alternatives and temptations… wandering from the hand of the God who provides our greatest need, thinking we’re fine right where we are (though we too are scratched and bleeding), and refusing to budge. Bull-headed takes on new and clearer meaning, JD. Thankful God intervened for you and Mr. “Mavric” You best take good care of your health, sir, or I’ll break through a few fence lines and wag my sister-in-Christ finger at you 🙂

    1. I promise Ms. Mary; I’m “finer than frog’s hair” after this adventurous day. Something I took away from this, and something I want to study more on, is how much a part of our mind is like an animal’s. While I know God made us in His image and our brainpower far exceeds that of any animal, there is a part of our brain that must process temptation the same way. That’s why we keep falling into sin. It’s not because we want to; it’s because that animalistic part of who man is takes control of our brain and we react to that impulse. Yet, the Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual fruit of SELF-CONTROL. We have to choose to exercise it. Thank you for your great thoughts ma’am, and this is a “no finger wagging zone” young lady. M&M’s yes; finger-wagging, I’ll pass as Ms. Diane shares enough with me. 🙂

  12. Oh my, J.D, you never cease to amaze me at what you can do with those animals. I’m glad you got Mavric back without any further mishaps. He did teach a great lesson but tell him next time it would be better to learn without all that hassle! Blessing to you and Ms. Diane. Stay safe in those pastures.

    1. Amen! Working on a new fence design now Ms. Barbara. Of course, also asking God to provide the consulting work needed to pay for it. 🙂 “Oh sure, become a farmer! It’s a great way to spend your retirement years.” What I never heard was, “It’s a terrible way to spend your retirement savings!” LOL Thank you ma’am. Loved your post this week. On target ma’am; fire for effect!

  13. Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry that Mavric gave you such a time! I can just imagine how exhausting it was for you. But the lesson is great–yes, God gives us boundaries for our good and protection. Now if Mavric could just learn that, too! Blessings, brother J.D. Another great story with a priceless lesson. 🙂

  14. Funny how things like this always happen at the most inconvenient time isn’t it? Really enjoyed this tale of adventure and the reminder to stay on the right side of the wire!

    1. Thank you Ms. Terri. I’ve often wondered if God chooses those “inconvenient times” to teach us the lessons He wants us to remember most. In my life anyway, it seems I learn better when I’m uncomfortable; it heightens my senses. God’s blessings ma’am; so glad you enjoyed the post.

  15. Your post brought back a lot of memories. As a child, I often helped my dad get the cows back in when they escaped onto a neighbor’s farm. My dad once came to school and checked me out so I could help with the task. Evidently that’s an excused absence in the country. I smiled at Mavric’s antics, but I worried about you, my friend. Your message is right on target and I felt the “arrow” in my heart. When we’re outside the fence of our Lord’s protection (because we stumbled out, tumbled out, or pushed our way out), we are so vulnerable to attack by the enemy, and like your tired bull, we sometimes can’t find our way back. But, God is always there to guide us back, if we’ll just look. Thank you for another wonderful message from the Cross-Dubya.

    1. I love this Ms. Katherine. “Sin happens when we either stumble, tumble, or push our way into it!” That’s a keeper my friend. In fact, I’ll be making a desktop background quote of that one! And yes, it is. I can’t tell you how many cows I’ve had wonder down our drive. I’ve even had the Sheriff’s department herd them with their cruisers into my drive so I could pen them up until the owner could be found. Around here, we can pretty much tell you whose cattle they are by their breed, brand, or eartag color. LOL So glad you enjoyed the post; and grateful for the wonderful addition you brought to our conversation ma’am.

  16. Living outside the wire seems appealing when you are on the right side. But isn’t it funny how all that changes when you make the decision to leave the comforts of all you know and go outside the wires. Boundaries are set for a really good reason! Poor old Mavric will add some scars to remember his crossing over the line. Sorry you missed church, but God still shared a lesson with you!

  17. Such a vividly painted story of “stubborn” meet “bull-headed”! Your predicaments got my adrenaline going, too! I’m glad the stubborn rancher won out, Sir!!

  18. Oh, my! I know the pain, J.D.! The pigs we raised for ourselves and others sometimes got out and tried to savage the neighborhood. Pigs do lots of damage, as they plow up ground, grass and all, with their noses. One time they ran in front of a school bus. Thankfully no one was hurt, but we would have loved to see the look on that bus driver’s face!! So glad you got Mavric back safe and sound! I always appreciate your stories and insights from the Cross Dubya!

    1. I remember pigs as a young fella, there were always escaping it seemed. No pigs here at the Cross-Dubya, but we have had a few run ins with wild hogs. They make a mess of my pastures. It’s always “open season” on them. I was sure glad to get him back home where he’s safe too Ms. Kathy. Still need to improve that fencing, but am gonna need some help to get that done. God’s blessings ma’am; and thank you so much for sharing with us.

  19. Mr. J.D! I can always envision your well written stories as I read your work. It all comes alive along with a valuable lesson to be learned. The lure of sin looms before us and is often so appealing. It’s a daily, if not minute by minute, surrender to the Lord to win the battle.

    1. Thank you for these kind words Ms. Cindy. I pray with each post that it will help someone. Your point about the battle being sometimes “minute by minute” is so true ma’am. The challenge is that we never know when temptation will rear its ugly head. It might be easier if we know it was going to happen every afternoon between 3:00 and 3:15, but Satan and his minions look constantly for that window of opportunity when our spiritual armor is down. They’re masters as reconnaissance and finding just the right time to strike. That’s why we must always be prepared to defend our faith my friend. AMEN! Have a blessed week, and I pray Mr. Dan is doing much better.

  20. J.D., Mavric sure brought a powerful lesson for us all to remember >> “you are at most risk when you’re “outside the wire.” Been there, done that, and I am grateful for the nudge I receive to stay in His pasture!

    1. I couldn’t help but think of the words of Psalm 23:2 as I read your comments Ms. Joanne. Thank you so much ma’am. If we would only realize how much better we are in God’s care. I think that’s the battle we fight between our carnal human spirit and the Holy Spirit each day, as Paul writes in Romans 7. Thank you for adding so much to our conversation. Such a blessing sweet friend.

  21. Such a powerful analogy again, J.D. The spiritual lesson rings true in my heart and reminds me of Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (ESV)

  22. J.D., as I thought about your wayward bull and his size, I considered how weighty sin is in our lives. When temptation comes, I pray the barbed wire of the Holy Spirit’s warning helps me stay in the green pasture my Father provides. Thank you for this powerful post.

    1. Thank you Ms. Jeannie. I wish you could’ve seen me chasing him with that spoon in my hand. What a sight I must’ve been. I’m certain God chuckled a time or two. Am so glad you enjoyed the post ma’am; and will be praying you stay “inside the wire” too my sweet friend.

  23. J.D., I remember when our cattle would break out, and we’d wake up to find several in a neighbor’s corn, or some other place they shouldn’t be. Aleck, our old retired mule usually found it his duty to follow, so he could look after his pals. It is a wonderful thing to have good neighbors. Someone from church commented that our neighborhood is like living in a Hallmark movie! My brother’s Red Angus steers give him trouble from time to time. Thoroughly enjoyed your analogy. May the Holy Spirit get my attention by using the barbed wire of correction .

    1. I would’ve loved meeting “Aleck” Ms. Evelyn. I think he and “Magic”, my old jack donkey would have been fast friends. I always get a kick out of how our two donkeys interact with our weaned and yearling calves. I often keep them together in the north pasture that I can view from my den window. Sudden moments will draw my attention and I’ll see my donkeys chasing the calves across the pasture. Then, a few minutes later, I see my calves chasing the donkeys. It’s their version of tag I guess. It doesn’t seem to hurt their ADG so I just sit, watch, and chuckle at their antics. As for Red Angus, I once had a breeder of registered stock tell me that they are the most noisy of all cattle. They are also the most nosey of all cattle I think. Even “Mavric’s” calves like to get their heads through the wire and explore what’s on the other side. It’s the same grass, but I’m forever straightening posts and repairing stretched wires with my angus cattle. Still, to see their soulful eyes when then come up and eat from my hand or want a pat on the head, it’s worth it! God’s blessings ma’am; and thank for your sharing ab out “Aleck.” I can’t wait to read about him one day.

  24. I may need to have a stern chat with Mr. Mavric causing you to have to take a nitro pill. We heart patients have to stick together to keep our stress level down. I’m so glad God beckoned Mr. Tom to linger so he could help you. I’m also glad that Mavric didn’t wander too far away. And I’m glad you were ultimately successful without any major injuries involved save Mavric’s sore hiney! Sounds like God’s Hand was with you. I’m glad the lesson was in Mavric’s sad face and not in his stubborness or lustful actions. Hey, at least Mavric wanted to come back and realized he had a good thing. That’s because he has a caring owner. Thank you for being inconvenienced to be your bull’s savior.

    1. We do have to be more careful these days Ms. Karen. So glad you’ve made it home safely from Honduras. Prayed each day that God would both use and protect you. Loved the photos and descriptions ma’am. Mavric is not nearly as happy these days as he’s confined to a much smaller pasture, but he’s at least safe and secure. With time, we’ll get a new fence up so he can both flirt with the pretty girl cows next door and stay safe within the confines of his boundaries. 🙂 Thank you so much for commenting my friend.

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