Sunday, May 9, 2010

Remembering the Farm - Cows I have known

Today is Mother's Day.  I will call my Mother-in-Law once I am sure she is home from church.  Everyone is writing great glowing things about their mothers or grandmothers.  My sister has been writing something every day since March 1st about our mother, who has been gone 8 years now.  Since I can't top that, I will write about another set of mothers that have had a great deal of influence in my life.  Also it will drive my kids nuts as they hate it when I talk about COWS.

Dad always had 20 to 30 cows so they were part of my life as soon as I could walk.  I'd follow the calves through the oat field and mom knew where I was as she could see the calves moving even if she couldn't see me. We milked three to six cows, separated the milk and shipped cream for cash money, up until 1960 when dad started driving school bus.  He sold the cows in 1981, the year he turned 60. It snowed in September and the price bottomed so it was time.

Back in the olden days before ear tags were common, cows had names.  There was Ramona and Beauty, two purebred Red Polls.  There was Mag, who was a great granddaughter of old Turnip Teats.  There was Jane, a light red cow with horns, that I had to milk in the evenings when dad was in the field.  I was pretty young and she was very hard to milk.  You almost needed pliers to squeeze milk out of her.  There is nothing as nervous as a cow being milked with a cold pair of pliers.

Three cows in particular, though, stand out in my memory.

Gooseface was a red cow with a white patch under her chin and up her jaws like the white patch on a Canada Goose.  She raised a good calf every year and so she should have as she grazed the neighbour's wheat field most of the time.  The fence wasn't built that could hold her.  We finally sold her to the neighbour, figuring it served them both right.  When we got her in the corral (the third time) Dad tied her to a post with a logging chain until Jim got there with the truck.

Indian Cow was the best mama cow we ever owned.  Red white face, with needle sharp horns but a good disposition and a good milker.  Dad got her with heifer calf at foot in trade for a John Deere Clipper combine from a guy from a Reserve north of Battleford someplace, hence the name.  She raised a dandy calf every year and so did her daughters.  When Dad sold the herd, half of them were related to her.

Black and White Cow was my nemesis from when I was a little kid and she had her first calf.  A fiercely protective mother, she hated kids, dogs and women in skirts and would charge if any got too close.  I was terrified to go up to the pasture by myself on foot until I was in my teens.  But she raised good calves and she didn't bother Dad any.  But she got old and thin.  We kept her home one winter so she could get extra feed.  She broke into the chop bin on a cold night and died of grain overload.  Not what I would have chosen for the old warrior.


  1. This is a great post, Dad. I love hearing about your life growing up on the farm.

  2. Great stories Dad. Too cute.

  3. Never knew any cows. But I did hang out with more than a few hogs. All things considered, it sounds like cows are a friendlier bunch. Breeding sows are especially obnoxious as they don't get the same fattening diet the hogs destined for market do.

    Great post. Loved this. Turnip Teats? Knew a woman once........Nah, I won't go there.

  4. Glad you liked the stories, girls, even if it was ABC (another bloody cow).

    I like cows, Mike. Pigs smell bad. Cows have personalities, of course, as do all animals (even pigs) and one works around their particular quirks.

    Turnip Teats was a legendary cow of my father's youth which was impossible to milk as one could not get one's hands around the teats to squeeze anything out. It was not a complimentary name.

  5. Al - thanks for writing about the bovine history of the farm - well at least the female part. For father's day will you write about the bulls? Course you write a lot of bull in your blog most days!

    Being 7 years younger, I don't remember all the cows you mention but do recall Ramona. didn't know she was purebred. I remember Aunt Frances talking about Turnip Teats so she must have been legendary. If I got the story straight, "Mag" or "Maggie" was named for "Milk of Magnesia" - an example of Grampa's quirky sense of humor. She was a black & white cow that Ev and I were afraid of - was she the daughter of your "Black and White Cow"?

    The Red Polls had a stubborn streak and wouldn't chase worth a darn. I recall Dad breaking several willow pickets over one cow's back and head trying to get her into the corral chute. He was relieved to see the last of them off the farm.