Fancy Coffee Friday: Reminiscing about Cows

The other day I was going through a stack of magazines and came across the Fall 2014 issue of Modern Farmer that I picked up as an impulse buy in the checkout of Willy Street Co-Op.  There is a picture of a Holstein cow on the cover and “HAVE A COW” in bold and black in the corner.  It was their “Pre-Apocalypse” issue and though I’ve written about preppers before here and here, and have have even been called a “prepper” by a coworker (goodness forfend!), I don’t consider myself a prepper.  (Like a Pepper… but less fizzy.  And not everyone wants to be one.)  I do, however, like to be prepared.  Y’all should see the amount of toilet paper and facial tissue I had stored up for the winter that we’re just now getting to the end of!

Back to the magazine.  Cows.

This is a Brown Swiss.  In Switzerland.

This is a Brown Swiss. In Switzerland.

Years ago as a child I loved going to my Great Uncle and Aunt’s dairy farm.  My childhood is filled with memories of baling hay, endless teasing by my older cousins, eating dinner at midnight on hot and sticky summer nights after working all day, strawberry pies, tater tot casserole and cows.  Brown Swiss cows in particular.

It didn’t matter that at my own house I had a pony, horses, goats, rabbits, cats and dogs; cows were a creature I didn’t have a ton of experience with outside of the annual steers we had kept for half a year only to end up in the freezer and be eaten come fall.  (I wasn’t really allowed to handle them as they were too fractious.)  The cows, they were different entirely, handled daily, the Brown Swiss tended to be docile creatures, unlike the uppity Holsteins that were beginning to make their appearance in the barn.

So, as I gazed at the magazine cover and then read the article, the memories that came into my head started with one summer day, heading out to the barn with the guys who were going to milk the cows and I wanted to “help”.  Of course, they let me “help” – which I’m sure meant that I was in the way, but I eagerly put out scoops of corn silage into the feeder in anticipation of the cows making their way into the barn soon.  I had to learn how to not scare the cows in my excited state of being allowed to close the stanchion, letting them put their head in and calmly shoving the mechanism together.  And once it was all done, and I couldn’t help any more, I ran the aisle of the barn with one of the ever-present St. Bernards on the farm or took up a prime viewing spot in front of a cow that seemed particularly patient and calm, No. 1.  As she licked her muzzle, the tip of her tongue reaching all the way up into one of her nostrils, then the other, I attempted to imitate her.  I failed, but I kept trying!

“No. 1” was surely just a reference to the particular stanchion and not the cow who happened to occupy it, but to me, my memory of her is something of an idolization of “her”.  But, does it matter?  Fond memories of childhood have a way of becoming larger than life.

One winter, as I frolicked out in the barn among the cows who were brought indoors against the frigid temps, I quietly sidled up next to No. 1 who was laying in her spot, placidly chewing her cud.  Gingerly I tip-toed up towards her head, well aware that this thousand-pound animal could easily crush me had she wanted to but I held my mittened hand out to her nose so she could sniff and before I knew it, I had pulled off my mittens and was running my fingers through her thick winter hair, pressing my cheek to her shoulder and absorbing the heat from her.

To my younger self, I was no more intrusive than the barn cats that were curling up to, or on, various cows in the barn.  And, No. 1?  She let me.  She stayed lying in the stall, calmly turning to watch me with an air of aloofness as I wriggled my fingers into her hair.  I’m sure I imagined that I was giving her a good massage – and perhaps I was?  All these years later, if I attend a county fair or the state fair, when I see a Brown Swiss, I want to walk up to it and bury my face into it’s neck, hugging it.

Mr. Muse has a chuckle each time we pass by a farm that raises the breed and I see the cows outside, excitedly announcing how many are out or if there is a particularly pretty one at that moment.   He’s also well aware that if we had more acreage – I’d probably show up with one for the farmstead – my love for the breed runs that deep.

But alas, I don’t, and so I watch for them on my commute and pet them at the fairs and remember what it was like over thirty years ago to bury my fingers into the winter coat of a calm cow and enjoy the sensation and the warmth of her and imagine she enjoyed herself too.  For me, Brown Swiss are the best cows there are.

Do you have an animal around which is centered a, or many, very fond childhood memory?

About The Amusing Muse

Deep thinker whose mind operates at warped speed. Philosopher pondering the big (and little) things in life. Storyteller. Office Ninja. Model. Teller of bad jokes. User of big words.
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10 Responses to Fancy Coffee Friday: Reminiscing about Cows

  1. sassycoupleok says:

    Definitely brings back many memories. As a country boy growing up in rural Oklahoma a couple of nearby uncles and neighbors had milk cows along with a variety of other farm animals. So the morning and evening milking was always a big thing, it was everyday, twice a day. No vacation. I was always amazed how those rough leathery looking men who were loud and stern all the time could so calmly coax those cows into the milking stalls. They then would slowly run their hands over the shoulders and down the backs to further calm them. The milking stool was brought up, a wet towel to wipe the udders and the hand milking began (there were no automated machines) . It was magic watching those strong hands work fast and efficiently. After having tried milking a few times myself I knew why these men and those women who milked had a grip like a vise. It requires strong hands and stamina, it’s not nearly as easy as it looks.

    One of the other fun memories was when us farm boys would have dried cow pie fights in the cow lot and pastures. Kids today have no idea what they are missing out on…

    Yeah, good memories of an era gone bye.

  2. aging cowgirl says:

    Anyone who didn’t know No. 1 may have been horrified with allowing a small child to get up close and personal with anything so big. I’m glad you have such fond memories. Check your email RE: this edition…

  3. My husband’s family raised beef cows and this city slicker was stunned at their size. The first time I met them I was surprised that they were the size of a sectional sofa and of course I named them all, which I later found out is not a good idea. Now, I actually follow a page devoted to cows on Instagram and it is hilarious.

  4. John says:

    I went on a several week “vacation” to visit my grandfather’s cousin’s farm in northern Ontario, when I was a kid. He grew soybeans and corn, raised pigs, and this was the first season without cows (as he was preparing to retire, and he found a buyer for his herd). Every night, I heard how much easier life was, without having to tend for the animals . . . yet, my 12 year old self could sense a real “missing them” when he’d talk about the reduced work effort.

    • Mr. Muse and I have talked many a time about animals and ownership thereof. Two of my biggest loves in life are raising/care for animals and traveling. Two very different things and neither conducive for accomplishing the other, but we make it work. Mostly it works because I have an awesome house/pet sitter who can handle everything from fish to horses and cattle. For many years we looked for a place in the country and though we had our cats, and at the time – dogs, it wasn’t the same without goats and horses and rabbits and every other member of the menagerie I longed for in my head. I had been around goats for most of my life, I missed having tiny, hoof-shaped bruises from kids in the spring time. I fondly remembered every trial, tribulation and joyful moment with the adult goats. Even the “bad stuff” – like having to put down an elderly doe who was on a painful and slow decline is a memory that sticks with me because it is all part of having animals.

      As much as I may groan some days when the alarm goes off at 5:30 for me to head out to the barn to take care of the chickens and goats, I still do it “because everyone expects me out there by 6 AM”. I don’t have human children, but I have my dependents… my kids, and I will protect them and care for them just as fiercely. And it is work, but it’s good work. Soul-cleansing and fulfilling work. Even when it is dusty, dirty and stinks up the joint. LOL

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