Mon 26 Sep 2011
Back when I owned The Point Reyes Light, we had a police scanner in the newsroom that continually squawked out the radio communications of the Marin County Sheriff’s Department, the Highway Patrol, the Marin County Fire Department, and West Marin’s seven volunteer fire departments.
Most of the time the radio chatter went in one ear and out the other, but we perked up when messages were of particular interest to West Marin, and one of the most interesting I ever heard was broadcast in the late 1980s.
A cow was stuck in a tree in Hicks Valley about a half mile west of the Cheese Factory along the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. I immediately told reporter Sarah Rohrs to grab a camera and drive out there right away.
Although Sarah hurried, Hicks Valley firefighters had already gotten the cow down out of the tree before she arrived and could shoot a photo. Nonetheless, the incident was the lead story on Page 1 that week.
As it happened, the cow had apparently been leaning over an embankment for some grass when it fell into a tree below. The animal was uninjured but wedged between the tree trunk and a large limb. Firefighters merely pulled down on the end of the limb, and the cow rolled out.
I thought I’d never run into a story like that again, but three weeks ago something similar happened in Saro, Sweden. A moose standing on its hind legs fell into an apple tree and got stuck. Resident Pers Johansson, who discovered it, told CNN he had been coming home from work in a rainstorm when “in the wind I heard something screaming…
“At first I wondered if it was the crazy neighbors. But then I heard it again and went and checked. I saw something really big up in a tree in my neighbors’ yard, and it was a moose. It must have been drunk after eating fermented apples, and as it was reaching out for more fruit, it must have slipped and fallen into the tree.”
Johansson and the neighbors cut off some of the tree’s limbs, and here again firefighters came to the rescue, bending down the tree so the moose could slide out of it. A fire department spokesman told CNN, “Once free, the moose collapsed on the ground and fell asleep, so we let him sleep it off.”
Apparently the firefighters have an annual problem with moose eating fallen apples, which ferment in their bellies and get them drunk. Ending up in trees, however, is far less common.
At first it seemed right out of the Old West. Around 1973 and 74 when I edited The Sebastopol Times, Western Sonoma County began having a problem with rustlers. Hundreds of sheep were stolen around Jenner, and steers were rustled in several places.
One night a rancher notified Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies that some men had just grabbed a calf along Coleman Valley Road and stuffed it in the trunk of their car, which the rancher described. A short while later, a deputy spotted a car matching the description and stopped it.
When the deputy looked in the car, however, he concluded the occupants could not be the rustlers. All of them were dressed in tuxedos and said they were going to a dance. So he sent them on their way, not realizing the rustlers had hurriedly changed into formal wear for just such an encounter.
Sonoma County sheep ranches and Midwestern hog barns, such as this, are now being targeted by rustlers.
Once again rustling is in the news. Sonoma County deputies this month arrested two brothers for stealing at least 20 sheep in recent weeks from ranches in Petaluma and Sonoma. Luis Ortiz Orea, 28, of Petaluma and Pedro Ortiz Orea, 30, of Santa Rosa are scheduled to be arraigned Monday for the alleged rustling. The brothers sold the stolen sheep in another county, Sonoma deputies said.
Rustling on a much larger scale has also been occurring along the Iowa-Minnesota border where at least 1,000 hogs have been stolen — mostly from large operations but also from smaller farms — during August and September.
Until recently such rustling had been rare, local police note. The reason for the spike in hog rustling, The Wall Street Journal reported, is that market prices are at an all time high of approximately $200 per pig. “Hog and cattle prices are soaring on increased demand overseas. The high price of corn, driven in part by the ethanol industry’s appetite, has also made feed so expensive that many hog farmers have shrunk operations.”
According to investigators, at least 700 hogs have been reported stolen in Nicollet and Kandiyohi counties, Minnesota, and about 200 have been reported stolen in Mitchell County, Iowa. They add that the actual numbers may be even higher.
“The pig rustlers back trucks up to unguarded hog houses that contain thousands of pigs, according to police,” The Journal added. “They load up a few dozen animals at a time into a trailer and drive off under the cover of night.” The rustled hogs may then be taken to a crooked slaughterhouse or dishonest pig farmer.
Approximately 180 hogs will fit into a semi trailer, suggesting that the thieves have raided the same hog operations several times. Losing 180 hogs costs the owner $36,000, and in Iowa, where there are 19 million pigs, any theft of more than $10,000 can draw a 25-year jail term — confirming what a dirty crime it is to steal pigs.