Woodbine family is waiting for stray cows to go home

Uninvited, 2 heifers eat peaches, shrubs

July 22, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Someone in Carroll County has lost two prime black heifers, and Ed Primoff wants to know who.

The two bovines showed up uninvited this week on Primoff's 211-acre spread in Woodbine and have developed a taste for the family's azaleas and peaches. Attempts to catch them -- from using lassoes to chasing the cows in an all-terrain vehicle -- have proved futile. And all neighborhood cows are accounted for.

Primoff figures he has lost bushels of peaches and most of the azaleas under his front windows.

He first noticed the cows at dusk Tuesday, staring glassy-eyed into his living-room windows and chewing on shrubs.

"Young heifers, black with white faces," said Ed Primoff.

"Driving the dogs crazy," said Sue Primoff, his wife.

"Nice and healthy looking, well fed," said Frank Eyler, the Primoffs' tenant farmer, who keeps about a dozen cows and volunteered to help the couple corral two more. "Young, but I would say at least 500 pounds each."

At 66 cents a pound, each would be worth about $330.

Neighbors saw the two cows wandering across Route 97 onto the Primoff land and up the driveway. Evidence showed they had stopped in the peach grove before moving on to the house.

Ed Primoff, 55, grabbed a rope and revved up the all-terrain vehicle. "It looks easy on TV," said Primoff, a fan of Westerns.

But, before setting out, he put away the plane parked in the front yard.

"A thousand pounds of beef can play havoc with a light aircraft," he said. "They could dent a wing, just by leaning against it."

Lack of roping skills

Primoff later learned from Ed Rash, a retired dairyman, how fortunate he was in his lack of roping skills. An ATV is no match for a strong-willed, hefty cow.

"You would have needed a good, stout tree to tie the other end of the rope around," said Rash, who used to keep 120 head of beef on his nearby farm. "These cows have not been halter-trained. They would drag that vehicle all over."

After three hours of lassoing in the dark, some would-be cowpokes gave up, no closer to catching the cows.

"We were trying to lead them down to fenced pasture," said Eyler, who used a bucketful of oats as a lure. "Cows usually like to spend time with their own kind."

The heifers followed Eyler's trail of oats but soon tired of the game and headed for the woods. After all, they had had their fill of fruit and were ready for a nap.

"I was 5 feet in front of them, but they made up their own minds and went into the woods," said Eyler. "It's hard to sway 500 pounds of beef, and it looked to me like they knew where they were going."

The cows had gorged their way through a grove full of succulent peaches. One tree was split in half, and fruit was cleared from all lower limbs.

"They ate like garbage disposals, bushels' worth," Ed Primoff said. "Just count the pits all over the ground."

"Let them eat the fruit," said his wife. "My biggest concern is that they don't get back out on the highway."

Rash figured they were reclining in the woods, near a cool stream.

"Fruit makes 'em thirsty," he said. "They are laying somewhere probably with a bellyache. They won't go far as long as they have food and water. I am almost certain they will be back."

Sue Primoff called all the local farms.

"I spent hours on the phone, calling every farm family around here," she said. "I got a real phone network going. Nobody is missing cows."

`Found cows' report

She notified local radio stations, which broadcast a "found cows" report several times yesterday and promised to repeat today.

Members of the Humane Society of Carroll County tried a little lassoing yesterday morning with no luck. They promised to return today. If they can catch the heifers, they will load them onto a trailer and keep them in a fenced pasture at their Westminster headquarters until someone claims them.

"Maybe the owner is afraid he will have to pay damages," said Eyler.

The Primoffs have plenty of peaches left, and the azaleas are replaceable. They would just like the cows to go home.

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