Gaston bovine jumps fence, hangs out on Bald Peak for five months before recapture by owner
With the 500-pound creature snared securely by the ankle, Jay Meyer was finally able to look her in the eye.
His flashlight briefly illuminated a frothing beast with a deep gouge on its nose and wild eyes, like something from his nightmares.
As a hobbyist rancher, going toe to hoof with a feral animal wasn’t something Meyer ever expected to do. But he wasn’t about to let Sarah the Satanic Cow get away again — no matter what.
After five months of searching for the escaped bovine, he knew this was his only chance to bring her back.
But as the cow repeatedly charged at him, Meyer began to question how long his amateur snare would hold.
With no tranquilizers or proper equipment to hold her, Meyer had few options.
Meyer, who lives southeast of Gaston on Bald Peak, is the founder and chief creative officer of Unlikely Places, a creative services consultancy in Portland. He bought Sarah from Crown Hill Farm Enterprises, a cattle ranch and family-owned stove dealer in McMinnville.
“I always suggest locking up [new cattle] for a few days so they can get used to their new surroundings,” said Lucien Gunderman, owner of Crown Hill.
Meyer did so. But Sarah had other plans.
One morning about a week after her arrival, Sarah jumped the five-foot fence where she’d been penned, then bolted through the open barn doors into the wild land surrounding Meyer’s property.
“How the cow jumped that fence I’ll never know,” Meyer said. “But the potential for her to disappear into oblivion was the worry.”
And disappear she did — for five months.
After paying $1,200 for her, “We thought we were going to have to take it in the shorts,” Meyer said.
For the next four or five days, he and his family searched tirelessly for Sarah. Meyer asked neighbors, called the police in two counties and finally contacted an experienced trapper from Newberg who used cow dogs — all to no avail.
Initially, the trapper asked for more than $600 to retrieve the animal, though he finally settled on about $200. By then, however, the scent was too stale.
Meyer posted signs at the Screamin’ Chicken Diner and Gaston Feed, pleading for someone in the community to notify him if they spotted his wayward Sarah. For 20 weeks he heard and saw nothing.
This month, he finally got his first tip — from a neighbor who had spotted Sarah drinking at a deer-watering hole.
Meyer, who felt over his head attempting to corral an angry bovine, tried unsuccessfully to recruit several other people, then finally decided to take matters into his own hands.
Using rope provided by Gabe Ellis of Gaston, Meyer set his own snare, hoping he might at least catch Sarah by the ankle. It’s the only snare style he knows and is made of sticks and twigs.
Around 10 p.m. last Thursday, July 16, he got a call from a neighbor who told him Sarah had been snagged. Meyer arrived at the scene with a makeshift cattle trailer, loosely put together with wood.
“She was mad as hell,” Meyer said. “I had this giant, satanic animal trapped by the ankle — what was I going to do?”
Her time in the wilderness had caused Sarah to revert to a wilder, feral state. Also, she had run off with her harness still on her head, then gained more than 150 pounds during her five-month vacation. Her growth had caused the harness to dig into her muzzle, creating a nasty open gash.
The sight was terrifying.
“I had to move 500 pounds of raging beef into a tiny little trailer,” Meyer said. “I’m no cowboy.”
The cow charged Meyer several times and knocked him down at least once, he said.
It took half an hour to move Sarah about 100 yards, and when he finally got her to the tiny enclosure attached to his truck, “It was like trying to put a gopher in a cricket box,” Meyer said. “We had to squeeze her in there … it was bananas.”
By the time he got her back to his barn, it was 1 a.m.
Today Sarah is recovering from her adventure on Bald Peak. And though he wants to put her into an upper pasture, Meyer is worried she’ll run off again, or worse, that she’ll hurt somebody.
If he and his wife, Jen Meyer, can get Sarah to calm down, they’ll breed her and sell her at auction.
“Otherwise,” Jen said, “It’s going to be hamburger.”