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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Chasing the big black bear

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairy Published on 19 July 2021

Sometimes in life, and especially in farming, the most unusual things happen. Things you would never dream of or predict, but they happen anyway.

They have a way of making life much more interesting and, to some degree, entertaining.

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Such is what happened here a while back. It started out as a normal hay-making day. We did our morning cattle chores, and then Joanne and the kids went to town on some business. I went out to rake my long upper marsh hayfield so I could bale it later in the day. It was a hot, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky, perfect for baling dry hay for our cows to eat in the coming cold, snowy months ahead.

I had raked a few swaths around the outside of the field, and was on the lower end of it, when the unexpected happened. A great big black bear came out of the woods into the swath of hay I was raking about 30 yards in front of my tractor. He didn’t seem to know I was there until I was just yards away from him with my tractor.

Now, if I would’ve been out there on foot, I would have been scared of him – but on the tractor, I knew I was perfectly safe. As I got close to him, he took off running down the swaths of hay in front of my tractor. I knew if he kept running in that direction, when he got to the end of the field he very well could cut across my other fields and end up in the small woods next to my building site – where my dairy cattle are. That would not be a good thing because sometimes big bears have been known to kill cattle. I knew my family was safe because they had gone to town, but I was concerned about my cattle.

So I sped my tractor up to almost full throttle, raking hay faster than I ever had before in my life. I hoped by chasing the bear hard he would go back into the big woods on my field’s edge. But it didn’t work that way. He kept running in front of my tractor the full length of the field. It was a hot day, and he was giving it his all to stay in front of my tractor. We finally got to the end of the field, and Mr. Bear turned and headed toward my building site. He did exactly what I didn’t want him to do.

Well, I was at the end of my field, so I couldn’t chase him anymore. As I watched him, he slowed down considerably as he crossed my other fields and entered the little woods by my buildings. All I could do then was pray to God that He would keep our animals all safe from the bear.

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I kept raking my field for the next couple of hours and was almost done when Mr. Bear comes out of my little woods and heads back across my fields into my hayfield again. This time, though, he gets into the upper end of it when I’m up there raking down toward the lower end. Again, he gets right in front of my tractor without realizing it until I’m just yards away from him. I wonder if the super-hot day was affecting him some. Well, he takes off running in front of my tractor for nearly the full length of the field. And yes, I had my old tractor at nearly full throttle as I chased him the length of my field. As we got close to the other end, he finally cut across the end of the field and went crashing into the woods. He was all spent; he’d had enough of being chased twice in one day by a tractor across the length of that field.

Well, what can I say? I’ve never chased him across my field since, and I’ve never had him up here by my building site since either. God answered my prayer that day and kept all our cattle safe in His care. I think Mr. Bear learned that he didn’t want to get chased by that tractor and rake anymore. At least I hope he did.

By chasing him with my tractor, I tried to guide him to where he should’ve gone. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. God does the same thing with us. Through His Holy Spirit and circumstances, He tries to guide and direct our lives. We are very wise when we are sensitive to Him and follow Him. Otherwise, things will not go so well for us, and we will live to regret it. I know that’s certainly been true in my own life at times.

As for Mr. Bear, once he got rested up, I’m sure he was all right, although he might have had nightmares about being chased by a tractor and hay rake after that.  end mark

Tom Heck, and his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact him at Life on the Family Farm or order his book at Tom Heck Farm.

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