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Coupeville steer back on Bell's Farm after escape

The steer that escaped from Bell’s Farm April 21 eats his 20th meal of the day Wednesday at Jerry Lang’s farm outside Oak Harbor. The steer came out of hiding exactly four weeks after it disappeared into a tract of forest near Bell’s Farm. Lang, who sold the yearling and three others, took the escapee back to remove any possibility of trying to return to the forest. - Paul Boring/Whidbey News Times
The steer that escaped from Bell’s Farm April 21 eats his 20th meal of the day Wednesday at Jerry Lang’s farm outside Oak Harbor. The steer came out of hiding exactly four weeks after it disappeared into a tract of forest near Bell’s Farm. Lang, who sold the yearling and three others, took the escapee back to remove any possibility of trying to return to the forest.
— image credit: Paul Boring/Whidbey News Times

The prodigal steer that escaped from Bell’s Farm April 21, suddenly materialized almost a month later, prostrate and humbled after squandering his birthright. Or at least becoming bored of his four weeks of solitude.

The neutered animal made his successful break in April, 15 minutes after Jerry Lang delivered the steer and three of his peers. While the less-agitated trio of new tenants made up for lost grazing time, the wayward fourth subtly plowed through two barbed wire fences, an electric fence, and jumped a large stack of irrigation pipes.

Bell’s Farm is separated from the upscale Sky Meadows development to the east by a tract of forest. The steer disappeared into the cover after having his way with a deer fence.

A resident reported a steer sighting on Zylstra Road near Hastie Lake Road shortly after the disappearance. Carol Barnes, Island County animal control officer, scoured the area but alas, the investigation bore no dung.

And then the search was over, absolving previous suspects like opportunistic butchers and would-be abductors in it for the meat. Or in it for companionship and then the meat. The unnamed bovine appeared from the woods May 19 like a phoenix rising from the flames. Lloyd Potter was the first human to glimpse the elusive animal. But he wasn’t the last.

“He was right in Sky Meadows the whole time,” said Jerry Bell, permanent owner of the West Beach Road farm and temporary owner of the steer. “The neighbors started seeing him.”

Neighbors attempted to lure him out, but the short-horned yearling thwarted the initial efforts using his knowledge of the area. After four weeks, he knew it like the back of his hoof.

“Lloyd was able to catch him and get a rope around his neck,” Bell said. “Then Ron Muzzall brought him back to the farm in his trailer.”

The once skittish “Lord of the Flies” underwent dramatic personality changes during his geographically restricted walkabout, fueling speculation that the steer either stopped or began taking his medication, or spent 30 days on a peyote trip. His unchanged girth disproved the vision quest theory. And all four stomach compartments appeared full.

The curious part of the story is that the wooded tract had previously been searched with no traces of the suddenly domesticated steer.

“I guess he really got to know the area,” Bell said. “He was very docile. The neighbors were feeding him by hand.”

Bell chose to take the yearling’s sudden appearance at face value, although he could only guess why he ultimately came out of the woods.

“Maybe mosquitoes,” he postulated. “Or he just got lonesome.”

Only the steer knows what took place during those 30 days. Maybe he went searching for two separate but almost identical parts of his anatomy that he wouldn’t mind getting back. Maybe he attempted to found a religion and abandoned the whole thing once he realized he was the only member of the congregation. Or maybe, just maybe, he discovered true love. Although young and naive, the yearling still grasped that in our culture inter-species relationships are vehemently frowned upon. He knew that until society sheds its ignorance and allows bovines and voles to at least be seen together, the love could never be.

Bell had found himself fielding the same question as he made his way around town. And some inquirers offered up their own ideas.

“Everywhere I go, people have been asking me, ‘Have you found your cow yet?’” he said. “More than a few of them said it’s probably in a butcher’s meat locker.”

Bell gave the steer back to Lang, both men afraid it would try to make another break for the woods.

In the end, Bell learned that sometimes in life, one must relinquish at least one of their sacred cows.

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