Saturday, April 18, 2009


There's nothing like the love between a boy and his....cow? This picture shows Nate with his "baby," Weezy. Weezy's mother died a few weeks after giving birth, and Nate adopted the sweet brown calf as his own. For several months, Nate bought and mixed calf milk replacement, trudging out to the barn in all kinds of weather to feed his charge every couple of hours. Of course, Weezy fell in love with her new mother and food source. Now, two years later, she still comes trotting across the field when she spies Nate out on the farm, eager for a good scratching and a snuggle from her favorite boy.

After these pictures were taken, several "special" cows from my own childhood came to mind. My favorite, hands down, was the family milk cow Ruthie, a Brown Swiss/Jersey cross with huge brown eyes and a disposition as sweet as honey. Standing only waist high to my dad, Ruthie was the perfect size cow to appeal to children. Her coat looked and felt like brown velvet, and she never seemed to mind the eager attention we kids lavished on her. Mom would let Ruthie's milk sit in the refrigerator for a day in a plastic gallon bucket, to allow the cream to rise to the top. When Mom would go to skim the cream, the bucket would be half full of cream, half full of milk. We had lots of home-made butter and the best ice cream I've ever tasted when Ruthie was with us.

Then there was Friendly Fred, a Longhorn bull the size of a locomotive. Honestly, I think this red-and-white spotted behemoth weighed well over a ton. Fred had impressive horns curving out from his enormous skull, each as long as my outstretched arm. For all his fearsome appearance, Fred was about as tame as a dog. I can remember Fred lolling in the shade of an ancient beech tree out behind the chicken house, surveying the herd of beef cows under his charge - I had no qualms about walking right up to him and scratching his long, rounded back. Of course, I didn't want to be in the way if he decided to swing his head around at a bothersome fly!

Early one spring, we had a very hard freeze right when the cows were calving. An unfortunate bull calf dropped on a bitterly cold night, and Dad didn't want to leave him out exposed to the extreme cold. Dad loaded the little fellow up into the Jeep, drove him home, and carried him into the house for a little TLC. Now it just so happened that at this particular time in the Stricklin cattle program, Dad had a Brahma bull in with the Angus cows - I think the offspring were christened "Brangus." This little bull calf looked extraordinarily like his father: long, drooping Brahma ears, a tiny hint of a hump about his shoulders, a mouse-colored coat as soft as silk, and huge glowing eyes the color of dark chocolate. Dad administered his special treatment - a mixture of whiskey, honey, and colostrum - and then bundled the little fellow up in a pile of blankets in the laundry room. By the next morning, "Mohandas" was up rollicking about the laundry room, making a tremendous mess of everything. Of course, all of us kids fell hopelessly in love with this delicious bit of cow-dom, and Mohandas became a family favorite - was even spared the normal fate of bull calves, and enjoyed a long and comfortable life following in his father's footsteps, so to speak. (By the way, Dad's "special treatment" for us kids, whenever we had a cold or congestion, was about the same recipe - whiskey, honey, lemon juice, and hot water. Blech! We thought it tasted awful, but it really did seem to help.)

Seeing my kids making bovine friends among Granddad's herd has sent me on a journey down memory lane. When my boys and girls come in talking excitedly about Clovis or Nike or Good-Momma-Cow, I smile at the thought of another young girl who loved Ada and Bessie and countless others of the family herd, many years ago. And when I'm out walking in the fields, nothing brightens my day like the sight of Weezy trotting over to say "hello," and nuzzling up for a neck rub.