Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Three Tales of Cows and Childhood

I was posting on a dog forum I belong to and was telling some childhood stories about cows. I realized how much a part of my life cows have been even though we have none now and my father quit dairy farming when I was 12 and burned the fences and rolled up the wire the next day after the cows left. I'm not kidding, he said he didn't want to be tempted to buy anymore cows. He had built a new barn in 1949 when he had two barns burn in one night from lightning, uninsured, he had to pay for the new one (and the equipment he lost) somehow and supposedly that's why my mother started teaching again and my dad started dairy farming. We had 33 Holsteins or so when I was growing up, Daddy also had a fairly large mechanic business and custom hayed and farmed on the side. Milking and taking care of the cows was NOT his favorite part of the day although he loved animals too, just not cows.
Anyway there are 3 stories I remember two fairly terrifying and one merely puzzling but they affected my childhood I suppose, I got over my fears almost but can still remember the terror from the first one, the fear and then anger from the second one and the puzzlement from the third one. Also I'm not afraid of cows, the fear was only from them one time. The picture above is me in 1993 I think with my pet Hereford. My husband and I had 40 calves, big mistake, took care of them for another guy and he ended up losing money supposedly so we took care of them and fed them for almost a year for free. I'm not particularly fond of cows either but I suppose we will get some more eventually. The only thing those calves were good for was jumping fences and wandering, some days they would wake me up @ my bedroom window wanting back in with their food. They weren't supposed to be in the yard, they were supposed to be in their pasture but I never could convince them of that.
Anyway for the real stories.
The worst one was when I was probably 4, we had been to Kansas to visit my brother, I think it was Garden City Kansas and they had a zoo and an elephant named Penny. I remember we stayed in a hotel for the first time in my life and it had wallpaper with pink flowers. I don't remember the trip home, just the lights of Kansas City MO. It was early morning when we got home to the Ozarks in Missouri, probably 2 or 3 am and evidently whoever was supposed to milk the cows hadn't done it or the cows just heard us drive up and decided it was time to be milked. Whatever the case I woke up in the dark, alone. Completely utterly alone. I couldn't find anyone in the house and it was dark. I think it was about 4 am. I'd had a dream evidently and I decided my mommy and daddy were dead and I was all alone in a dark house. I was pretty sure I was going to step in a dead body, a recurring fear and dream I still have. I did a couple tours of the house crying, I don't think I turned on the lights because I wasn't sure someone wasn't in there with me and if they were was pretty positive I didn't want to see them because that would just make everything worse. We had an intercom that went from the house to the shop and the barn and I decided to call someone on it. Don't ask me why I didn't get on the phone (a crank one if you can imagine, we live in the boondocks) but often there were people down @ the shop or the barn working even @ night, I guess that was my reasoning (I was like 4 give me a break). I got on the intercom and started screaming about how my mommy and daddy were dead and I was all alone and would someone please come get me because it was DARK. My mom and dad were down @ the barn and heard me over the milking machines after awhile and they did rush up there and tried to calm me and figure out what was going on. I can still remember the feel of the hardwood floors on my bare feet (it was summer) and my careful steps to avoid any bodies laying on the floor. It's a house of doors, you can go from room to room and make circles and I did. I still dream about it.
The second one was more humorous but I didn't see it that way. I was younger, it was maybe the winter before, or a year before the first story. I was a small child, I mean I didn't eat and didn't grow. I think I was actually classified as malnourished for awhile. It wasn't my parents fault, I just wasn't hungry. So there I was 3 or 4 years old, down @ the barn in the winter, with my little corduroy coat and rubber boots on and knitted cap. I think it was snowing and I went out to the barn lot to play in it. Somehow I got in the middle of the lot where the cows waited to be milked and where they were let out after milking and I saw the big barn door OPEN. They had all been milked and Daddy and Mom were letting them OUT. I wasn't afraid of them but 30+ cows coming @ a small 3 year old look very BIG and all of a sudden I was AFRAID. I was also stuck in the mud which was actually cow manure if the truth be told, up to the top of my tiny rubber boots. I screamed and I yelled and thought surely they would stop letting the cows out. Nope they stood there and laughed!! Then I got MAD, as angry as a 3 year old can get, I believe I considered running away for the first time then. How could they LAUGH when I was about to be trampled. Then I noticed the cows weren't running over me, remember these cows were probably older than I was and knew me and I was making quite a bit of noise to boot. They parted like the red sea around me. My mom and dad laughed, finally they came and picked me up. I didn't know any four letter words then but I'm sure if I had I would have used them. Now I'm sure child psychologists would have said that was a scarring incident and maybe it was but to my parents the sight of a VERY angry small 3 year old in the middle of a bunch of gentle milk cows was really rather funny. Or @ least I try to tell myself that.
The third incident was rather mundane. My mother and I had gone to town, I was maybe 6, maybe younger, we got home and there was a cow stuck in the yard. Like up to her udder stuck in the yard. It was amazing, and my mom was MAD. Our house sat probably 30 ft off the gravel driveway where all the farm and shop traffic went everyday. I'm sure they built the wire fence to keep the cows out of the garden and off the lawn. There were 3 small gates and two large ones for the tractor to come in for the garden or if we needed to haul something heavy to the back door, which was actually the only door we used of course. When I was toddling they reinforced the gates and the fence not to keep the cows out but to keep me in, the story is I could climb before I could walk and would escape anything like Houdini, they were also in their mid 40s with a toddler which was a BIG surprise and an escaping one to boot. I vaguely remember the frustration of not being able to climb the big wire gate and the smaller ones were reinforced high, like 5 ft. Anyway the lawn was supposedly cow proof and here this cow was stuck in the yard and deeply @ that. Evidently there was a hollow space a few inches underground and the cows leg had just gone through the spring mud into it. She wasn't hurt but somehow this was my dads fault that the cow was in the lawn or so said my mother. I was fascinated by the open cave like space under the ground that I had walked on every day of my life (later a spring popped up close by and there was a rock sidewalk buried in the ground there, the combination probably contributed to the open space). I wondered if maybe the devil was under there trying to get out and he had made the hollow waiting for someone to come by, I was also wondering HOW all of this could be my dads fault? Or maybe the devil had someone I knew under there and I could get them out? So now the devil was tied up with cows, a fear of dead bodies (squishy ones, not just any dead body), and a fear of being trampled.
Like I said I've gotten over the fears but not the memories. And my husband wants to get cows, that's OK, just not Holsteins.


Checkers said...

Bless your heart - thanks for sharing

TC said...

Thanks Checkers, it was amazing how vivid all those memories are.

Anonymous said...

Wow, bless your heart. You sure do have a good memory!

TC said...

Ask my boss and my husband if I have a good memory. OK, I don't remember important stuff, just junk. LOL.
Thanks for looking Rachelle T.
I can still remember how Mom looked with her headscarf in the barn light too, laughing.......

MzzLily said...

I'm so glad you found me. Love your blog! I'll have to come back and read some more. I can so relate... Although my history doesn't contain cows, I'm experiencing the farm humor now!

TC said...

Thanks MizzLily, farm humor special that's for sure!! LOL