Cowsnatching and other Maine tales

I’ve been looking through the Google News Archive and I’ve found a number of my old stories from my days with United Press International. This is a valuable find for me because these stories illustrate the wire service style of writing — tight, short and bright. I spent a lot of my days with UPI in Maine covering government and politics, but when I wasn’t doing that I was looking for features stories, like this one about cowsnatching.


AUGUSTA, Maine – There’s a lady in Levant who won’t let her cows out of the barn. Rustlers got one of her heifers and she  doesn’t want it to happen again.

In Mount Vernon, Milton Hall noticed three heifers missing. After checking his pastures, he called the sheriff. The cows had been rustled.

Rustling isn’t limited to the Western bad guy type.  It’s been reported in the Maine counties of Kennebec, Aroostook, Sagadahoc, York and Penobscot.  The incidents range from the theft of a single grazing cow to daring cowsnatching right from the farmer’s barn.

In Belgrade, someone made off with a single Hereford after cutting a tether rope. But in Albion, one ambitious fellow made off with six milking cows.

“The guy drove a truck right into the barn and drove out with six of them,” said Kennebec County Sheriff Stanley Jordan.

Sheriff Darrell Crandall of Aroostook County said there have been three incidents in recent weeks, but he said he wasn’t sure if two of them were the real thing or not. The third incident was rustling, all right, he said, but the farmer didn’t know whether he lost two cows or four.

“The guy drove right in with a vehicle and took off with the cows,” Crandall said. “But the owner didn’t know whether he got two or maybe four.  Now, just how he came up with those figures I don’t know.”

Most of the cases are one-shot, or one-cow, deals. But a couple of years ago some enterprising rustlers used a bit of local technology in bagging their bovines.

The thieves used a “pulp truck,” a big stake truck with a huge hydraulic claw which is used to pick up logs and place them on the truck bed.

“These guys used to get a cow near the pasture fence, bop it over the head with a hammer, then move the claw over the fence and pick the carcass right over,” said Sheriff Jordan. “We never got ‘em.”

Jordan thinks the increase in rustling is a result of the increase in beef prices. And he thinks it’s going to get worse.

“See, a friend of mine said they’re selling beef cattle for 80 cents a pound on the hoof,” Jordan said. “Now if a guy can go out and knock one off that’s 200 or 300 pounds or so dressed out, he’s got it made.”

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