The Power of String

My brother writes from Switzerland, where he lives. Occasionally, he writes of amazingly elegant and simple solutions that I think of as typically Swiss. It’s a wonderful awareness of different problem-solving adaptations in different cultures. Here is the story:

“I was coming home [riding a bicycle] on a paved, two-lane-wide road without lane markers, common around here. I saw a road sign that signaled ‘cow crossing,’ but it was in an odd place and beat-up looking. I mistakenly assumed it had been left there by accident until I came upon the cows blocking the road and coming toward me.

I’ve mentioned before that the Swiss stake out fields that have been turned into pastures by putting frail poles strung with a single thread of electrified fence. The cows could easily walk through, but because
of the shock, won’t. Thus, when farmers herd them down a street, they block of side streets with string, and the cows, mistaking it for electric fence, respect that.

valais_fightingcows_4_060508Well, this herd was being herded down the street with string. The shoulder of the road was lined with electric fence. The farmer and his wife carried some string perpendicular to the road and to the fence
lining it. The farmer formed the corner, and his children and a farm worker brought up the rear, shaping the line of string into a rectangle. The cows carefully stayed within it as the group walked down the street toward the barn.

As they saw me coming, they narrowed the rectangle, freeing one lane for traffic, and I, and then one or two cars, passed through. The cows carefully stayed within the string.”

A perfect example of elegant problem solving!

Quinn McDonald loves innovation and ingenuity.