Thursday, February 3, 2011


So A and I had a conversation the other day.  It went something like this.

A: Love the blog!
M:  Me too!
A:  I don't have enough time!
M:  Me too!
A:  Maybe we should set up a schedule?
M:  Yes, please!
A:  How'd you like my cowcast?
M:  What the heck is a cowcast?
A:  A post about cows, more or less.  You like cows.  You should try it.
M:  I think I will.
And then there was something about cow appreciation month.

It is true.  I like cows.  But unlike A, I have, sadly, never closely worked with them except in three distinct instances. 

Numero uno involves the aforementioned cousin Salem and her family farm.  We would (and still do) herd their two dozen or so beef and breeding animals from place to place on foot...with sticks...and yelling...and sinking in marshes...and avoiding the token Brahman cow (the Brahma momma, we called her).  Even the toddlers pitched in.  It was great fun and a big mess.

Numero dos involves my family's experience in raising three Holstein calves for beef in a neighbor's deserted pasture.  We named them Sir Loin, Big Mac, and Norman.  Dad took great pride in his new status as a cattleman and fondly referred to them as "the herd."  I went and picked them out as adorable baby faces and never saw them again until Dad brought them home in white paper packages, largely due to my head being stuck in my textbooks. 

But it is numero tres that provides every reason I have for liking cows.  As far back as my family tree goes, that is how many generations I am a farmer's daughter.  It's in my blood and every one of my limited opportunities shows my natural affinity for it.  My dad would ditch his office job in a second and farm if he thought we wouldn't starve.  Salem's parents try every summer to come up with ways for us to join them on the Nevada farm.  We daydream about buying the property behind us and having a bigger garden (mom), a tractor (dad), a dog (the little boys), an orchard (little sister), and a burro (me).  We have chickens (Ruby and Evangeline and Melba and Joyce and Marge) and the neighborhood’s biggest garden.  My grandpa was not only a farmer, but a professor of agronomy (which is the fancy way of saying dirt and weeds).  When other kids had lemonade stands, I sold vegetables.  I could live on fresh raspberries and peapods.  I know about backhoe rides, dirt clod wars, and climbing stacks of hay bales.  I also know about the tragedy of putting a valuable animal down, rabid dogs, and the loss of being  too old to work.  I know about hoeing and kneading and prickly weed picking; watering and feeding and lifting with my knees; about milking and plucking and fencing.  I know about blisters and sunburns and farmers tans and outworking grown men. And I definitely know about having fits because I don’t weigh enough to budge something that badly needs budging, necessitating help from said grown men.  I sleep best on a screened porch where I can hear the rain and trains and my chickens.  I run barefoot over alfalfa stubble and gravel roads. 

And every summer I go home to place where shepherds and cattleman graze their animals and halloo across some of the highest valleys in the state.  They tip their hats and say that their pretty girl is back.  My first memory of them is being plucked up by Sam and plopped in front on the back of his white cob, Comer.  Comer is older than I am.  So is Sam, by four.  They carried me across a swollen stream.  I was five and wandering:  at home, alone, and utterly safe.  We talk grass and coming winter and then we give the backwoods salute, part the cows like Moses did the Red Sea, and go on our way.  I lean out the window looking for familiar cow faces:  the pretty brindled one; the one with white spots like four leaf clovers.  They look at us as if to say, “We pity you.  You come and go, but we always stay.”

I like cows.  I pity me too.

1 comment:

  1. Really lovely post. The agrarian in me loved every bit of it.