Thursday, October 16, 2008


I’ve always liked cattle. Throughout my childhood, cattle were an integral part of my life. My earliest memory is of eating the heavy cream that settled on top of the milk that mom got from our milk cow, Babe. Babe was a Jersey cow and she produced 2 gallons of rich milk every day, which was more than enough for our family. Mom would regularly treat me and my brother, Jason, to homemade gingerbread with real whipped cream on top. It is no wonder we were fatter than little pigs. Mom said when we’d spit-up, it’d be little globs of butter. We were raised in a culture that believed that a fat baby was a healthy baby. My Grandmaw Mary said she just loved little fat babies, and she petted on us something fierce.

Then there were the fun times we had in the old cow barn that sat halfway down Burns Holler. It was the cow barn for my Grandmaw Mary, who in her later years, sold her milk cow so the old stone barn became a favorite play spot for the young kids. We had chairs in there, and even an old television that didn’t have a face in it. Some of the braver kids would get behind the faceless TV set and give us the news. They thought they were a regular Dan Rather, but whenever they’d say something we didn’t like, we’d throw empty pop bottles at them (and in those days, bottles were made of glass). I don’t know how old the cow barn was, but it was so neat, it just exuded a sense of permanency, the rocks were laid neaty, and some were cut to fit. Moss grew on the insides of the damp cow barn and the roof was made of thatch. It looked like it’d be a snaky place, but I don’t ever remember seeing any snakes in there. It was great loss to the family when the cow barn was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1985 that completely washed away Burns Holler.

Later when we moved on the farm, we had cows everywhere. As many of you will recall from a previous post, one of my favorite childhood memories involved a big, red bull named Ole Doan.

In my later childhood, I remember one time we bought an old cow at the Stock Sale in Moorefield for $1. The cow appeared sick and nobody wanted to buy it. Well, figuring it was only $1, we bought it. When we got it home, Grandmaw Mary said to give it a cow tonic. She told us to get a gallon bucket and mix together 2 cups of molasses, a quart of oats, a quart of applesauce, a couple of handfuls of torn up milkweed leaves, and top it off with spring water to where it made a thin soup. Then force the cow to eat it. Well, that was an ordeal, if you’ve ever tried to make a cow eat something it didn’t want to eat, then you can sympathize. I remember it took quite a while but eventually got the tonic into the cow…one cup at a time. Well, we didn’t know what to expect the next morning when we went to check on “Ole Dollar” as we nicknamed her, but we were completely surprised to see her up eating and wanting out of the stall. As we got closer, we found that the tonic had really cleaned her out, there was runny cowshit all over her and the stall, and there were massive amounts of green cow vomit. I never knew a cow to vomit but that’s what we took it to be. After that, Ole Dollar was just fine. Grandmaw Mary said she was probably locked up, meaning that “Ole Dollar” couldn’t poop. She said that tonic loosened her up. Granny said that will happen to cows if they aren’t given any greens or grain. She said probably whoever had her probably only fed her very poor quality hay, and probably that was molded. Granny said that it was poisoning her system. Anyway, the tonic worked and “Ole Dollar” made a 100% recovery. About a month later, we turned around and sold “Ole Dollar” at the same stock sale for $500! Not a bad return for a $1 investment.

So these days, I can’t help but think of these memories whenever I see cows. There’s just something about a cow that just breeds a longing for the rural life.

Do any of you all out there have any cow stories to tell?


tipper said...

Wow Granny knew exactly what to do! We never had cows-but I did grow up and still live behind a huge cattle farm-well over 2,000 acres. So I've always loved seeing the cows and the the calves.

The Tile Lady said...

No cow stories, though my Dad did have cows after they retired back to Al, but I just came to visit, so don't remember much about them. This was an interesting story, though--boy your Grandmother knew what to do! great return when you sold that cow!