Outdoors Column: Stuck in the Mud

We have been in a drought situation for almost a year. This has created problems for a lot of people, including me. Though my problems have not been as great as some people’s, it is still something with which I must deal. The end of our lake at normal levels, reaches well up onto the neighboring property. This is fine as the cattle can get fresh water any time they like and will not swim to escape. During a drought, the lake level is low enough, the cattle only must walk across the dry lake bed to my place. It is not a problem if they just came over, got a drink, ate some grass, and went home. That is not how cows work. They would get a drink and eat for a while, but then would go down my driveway and attempt to walk to Arkansas or Canada. Cows are not good at planning ahead. They do not remember they will get grain in the morning if they stay home, nor do they remember how to get home if they are well on their way to Canada.


I have been working on solving this problem since last fall. The temporary solution was an electric fence across the opening that used to be a lake. This works well to keep cows out, but deer have no respect for an electric fence. They run through it and string it across the pasture leaving it open for the cows to come and go as they please. The original single strand was replaced with a double strand of wide nylon electric tape. I thought the deer might be able to see this better and jump over rather than run through it tearing it down. This seemed to help some as they only knock it down once per week or so.


I Knew a permanent solution had to be made. As much fun as it is to re-string electric fence every week, there are times it is a bit inconvenient. Saturday was the day to begin the permanent solution. This entailed setting corner posts in the dry lake bed where permanent fence could be attached. When the lake was at normal level, the new fence would be under water. If the lake level dropped again, hopefully the new fence would still be there. My wife and I loaded the Ranger with posts, wire, shovels, fencing tool, and a few bottles of water just in case of emergency. I took off on the tractor and she followed in the Ranger with all the supplies.


The place I wanted to put the braces was closer to the far side of the lake, but it is a much shorter trip to follow the near shoreline and drive across the dry lake bed rather than make a mile-long trip over the hill and through the woods to get to the same area. When I drove off the bank, I discovered the dry lake bed was not nearly as dry as it appeared to be. The ground was hard enough to support my weight, and even the weight of a cow. The front end of the tractor promptly sunk into the mud that was just under the dry, crusty top.


What started out as a quick project of setting a few posts ended up being much more complicated, having to remove the tractor from the lake and still making the long journey over the hill and through the woods.


Despite the unplanned activities, it was a nice day to get the job done. It was one of those jobs a person had to complete in the window between when the ground is too frozen to dig and before it was covered with water. I would though, recommend keeping one’s tractor out of the lake, no matter how dry it appears.