Heeding The Cows

When I was growing up, back before the days of stress and worries, our family of eight lived on a small hobby farm. My father’s occupation was in business but he was a farmer at heart and always had a few cattle and pigs and rabbits for us children to help care for. Our herd of cattle consisted of one very mild-mannered Holstein cow, a jumpy little bull, a half-grown calf who couldn’t forget that he was the baby, and a crazy-headed steer. During the dry, hot summer when the grass turned brown and crinkly we sometimes took the cattle out beside the road and allowed them to graze in the ditch where there was much better grass to eat. We called it heeding the cows.

I don’t remember that heeding the cows was a job we fought over because in my mind, I was about the only one who really enjoyed it. It was like a mini-vacation to me, as was anything that had to do with being outside. I’d fix myself a quart jar filled with ice water, take a good book along, then skip happily out to the barnyard gate and call the cows (to us they were all cows.) Sometimes it was a little bit scary as they came through the gate into our yard and I had to keep them calm so they wouldn’t run in all directions.

Daddy would always tell us the way to deal with cattle was, “Slow and steady. Slow and steady.”

In that way I’d ease them out our long, curving driveway toward the country road on which we lived. Once they got to the ditch and found the sweet green grass I had no worries and could sit on the lime rock knoll beside the ditch, read my book, or, as I preferred doing, lie on my back and make shapes out of the white, cumulous clouds. Often I fell asleep, but being the lucky person that I tend to be, every time I awoke the cows usually weren’t all that far away.

Yesterday I took my mother to a distant city for a doctor appointment and as we were driving home she remarked about how pretty the clouds were. I said they always remind me of when we used to heed the cows this time of year. We both chuckled over the memories and that led our conversation to even more childhood memories. As we talked I picked up my cell phone, rested it on the steering wheel and snapped a picture of the clouds.

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I had a very good childhood and I have my parents to thank for that. More than that, I have our Savior to thank for giving me to Christian parents.

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3 thoughts on “Heeding The Cows

  1. This time with Gram in her later years and spending time with doctor visits, as mundane and stressful as it can be, can also be a time you won’t ever forget and be thankful for these trips down memory lane together.

  2. Lovely post. I was also one of the lucky ones to get wonderful parents.
    During my teen years we moved to a farm and you brought back nice memories. We didn’t heed the cows, but I did help carry the milk pails before school and wash the milkhouse during the weekends.

    • We only had one milk cow and she was my older brother’s responsibility. That changed very quickly one evening, right after he returned from the hospital for surgery for an ingrown toenail. I was scurrying around, getting everything ready for him to milk the cow so all he had to do was hobble out to the barn, sit down and milk her and hobble back to the house. Of all times, the cow who never kicked or misbehaved in any way, stepped on his foot! His sore foot! And anyone who has ever milked cows knows that trying to push a cow off your foot is like asking her to step harder because she will always lean into you if you push her. My brother told me to give her more feed, which worked because she stepped forward for the fresh scoop of grain. Then he said, (more like, groaned,) “Jewel, you have to milk.” And he went limping painfully to the house, leaving me alone to milk the cow, which I had no idea how to do. Mostly what I remember of that evening was how much feed the cow got because I kept feeding her to keep her happy while I tried to get the milk out of her bag and into the bucket. Also, I remember that my arms were soaked with milk all the way to my elbows because what little milk I could squeeze from the teats ran miserably down my arms instead of into the pail.

      Over the years I did become a good milker, but I never lost sympathy for first-time milkers. There are some things a person just never forgets.

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