GETTING THE COWS

This is a memory of a day in mid-summer when my cousin and I were in our teens. I grew up on a dairy farm. Every year my dad put about a hundred tons of hay in the barn. Getting it while it was dry was essential.
“Those clouds look like rain,” Daddy said. “Wish I could the last load of hay in the barn, but I’ve got to get the cows.” He sat drinking the coffee Mama had sent to him.

My cousin, Norma and I stood by the wagon. Chum, our dog, stood on the wagon waiting.
“Can Norma and I go get the cows?”

Daddy looked across our small valley. “They’re over in the woods. I don’t want you lost.”

“We could take Chum,” I said.

“True. Chum will keep track of you.”

“Can we, Uncle Miles?

“Yeah. Go tell your mother. Don’t get lost!”

“We won’t,” I yelled as we ran to give Mama the news.

“That would be a big help to Daddy. Take Chum and don’t get lost,” she said.

Norma and I ran through the barn, past the big red and white bull in his stanchion, past my pony in her stall, past the calves in their pens, and out the back door. Chum knew his job. He was beside us when we stopped at the top of the knoll and looked over to the opposite hill. No cows were in sight. They’d stayed out of the heat in the shelter of the woods.

Hand in hand, we walked down the hill to the bridge across the creek. Chum ran through the creek and stopped midway across it to lap up a drink. Now he trotted across the flat pasture to the other hill.

We stopped to lean over the bridge railing. No fish in sight. “Too hot,” Norma said.

I agreed. “They’re under the rocks. Chum’s going up the hill. We’d better hurry.” We stepped carefully across the swampy area trying not to get our feet wet. Then, we ran up the side of the hill. Out of breath we stopped halfway up the slope.

The first cows were already coming out of the lane. By the time we got to the opening in the woods, most of the cows were heading toward the barn. We plopped down on a large rock to rest.

“Where’s Chum?” Norma asked. “He always followed the last cow.”

We looked over the valley below us. “He’s probably checking a woodchuck hole,” I said.

Woof, woof, woof!

“Chum never barks unless something is wrong,” I said. “We have to find him. I hope he’s not hurt.”

We followed the sound into the woods. In a small green space between the trees, we saw the cow. She wouldn’t move for Chum. When he tried to nip her heels, she kicked at him and swung her head at him.

Norma poked my ribs. “She has a baby.”

There at the cow’s udder, a brand new calf stood on wobbly legs sucking down its first meal.

“What are we going to do?” Norma asked.

“Daddy says the mother will go anywhere the calf is. All we have to do is get the calf out of the woods and down the hill.”

“Easy.”

“Right.”

Again Chum tried to bite the cow’s heels. The mama went after Chum, leaving the calf alone.

“Maybe we can carry the calf,” Norma said. I put my arms around the back of the baby. Norma wrapped hers behind the front legs. We tried to lift. I fell backwards.

“Let’s try pushing instead.”

Mama cow kept trying to get between us and the baby. But with Chum’s help we managed to shove the baby a few feet toward the lane and the open hillside. We let go to get our breath.

“Moo.”

The newborn moved lightening. It was nearly back to where we started before we caught it. We’d learned a lesson. Don’t let go of the calf. It seemed to take forever to get the calf into the open lane. “Uncle Miles will think we’re lost.”

We laughed. “Chum knows where we are.” Maybe it would be easier to get the calf to move down the lane.

The three of us, Chum, Norma and I finally had the baby calf out in the open. Mama cow, too. Each time she turned toward the woods, Chum threatened to nip her heels. He wouldn’t let her go back to call her baby. We continued to push and shove.

Then we heard it—the doodlebug. We saw it with the wagon. Help was on the way.
“You found a surprise. I didn’t think she’d have her baby until next week.” Dad said when he stopped. We told him our story.

“I got back with the hay. The cows were all in the barnyard but there was no sign of you girls or Chum. Just as I started to come look for you, I spotted you pushing this baby out of the lane. I thought I’d help you out.”

“The calf is awful heavy,” I said.

“Stubborn too,” Norma said.

A dark cloud appeared over the hill. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Let’s go home,” Daddy picked up the baby calf and laid it on the wagon. Chum jumped onto it while Norma and I were happy to climb into our seat for a ride to the barn.
Mama cow trotted along behind. She was not leaving her baby.

This girl calf that my mother named Lady grew up to be one of the best milkers in the barn. My mother took her milk for our family’s use and to make butter. The milk we couldn’t use went with the rest of the day’s milk to the creamery.

 

Advertisements

FLAG OF OUR NATION

My late husband, the Rev. Richard E, Lake, wrote this poem twelve years ago. The nation was not seeing what he was seeing.
FLAG OF OUR NATION

Flags of our nation begin to sag,
Pride has diminished with the breeze;
Claims of our past now whimper and fade,
As news makes our chest simply squeeze.

To salute and pray as the banner sails by
Is empty and painful and sad
Remembering old claims we held as truth
Now makes our future look bad.

Hoping for truth yet discovering none,
We turn on others in anger,
Even allowing our ourselves to fool ourselves
and become part of the danger.

We seek a new way, a human way
To strive for peace with dignity,
And give to our kids a saner tomorrow
One with hope based on civility.

Richard E. Lake

Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007

SMILE

I wrote about homeless and refugees a few months ago. Their plight reminds me daily how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and family who care for me.

Verses from the Gospel of Matthew (25:35+) continue to haunt me: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ He will answer: “When you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

We must not leave it to our government to care for the individuals in our country, or those in other countries with which we should share. As the gospel indicates, it is up to each of us to care for those we meet, see, friend or stranger. For a stranger perhaps the person needs nothing more than a smile and a kind hello—just recognition that he or she is an individual, a presence, and not an anonymous  unseen ghost.

Each one of us can do something to make another’s life a tiny bit more pleasant for the day. It never hurts to smile. The exercise relaxes your face! These daffodils smile and put a smile on my face too.1-IMG_3152b

A BIG BLACK CAT

After Van Gogh (pictures above) died last spring, I did not have a cat. I didn’t want one right away. But as spring began to come around the corner, I decided I wanted company in my home.

Three weeks ago I went to a cat shelter and looked at dozens of cats. Two black cats took my eye. Then I went off to Florida on a vacation. Last Saturday, after I had come home, I went back to the shelter to visit the black cats. The first one didn’t seem interested in me. Then I looked at Coco in her cage. At first, she seemed noncommittal, but I didn’t leave. It was then she came to the front of the cage and demanded attention–rubbing, petting. The director suggested I sit with her in a large empty dog cage. She continued to be loving and attentive.

My daughter, who was with me, declared that I may not have chosen her, but Coco had chosen me. We have now had a week together to get to know one another.

I have learned she will sleep in the bedroom with me, but decide that it is time to rise about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when I want to get a few more hours in bed. The past two nights, I’ve gotten up, she’s has left the bedroom, I shut the door and get back in bed.

Coco is a nibbler when it comes to eating, and messy when it comes to drinking. I’ve not seen her do it, but I believe she plays with the water. Now her dishes are on a place mat. Coco has definitely made me her person. I do as commanded.

The first cat I had as a small child had followed my mother home, at least that is the way she told the story, was a large black cat. It did everything I wished. I could dress him in doll clothes and feed him with a doll’s bottle. That trick saved his life when he had pneumonia after being trapped in a cold creek.

The first cat my husband and I had was nearly black, a charcoal tiger. He loved snow and following my husband by leaping from one footprint to the next. When we returned from living overseas, we were joined by Himself and Herself, two mostly black kittens, who were with us for fourteen years.

Black cats are part of my past and present.

 

MY ADVENTURES IN COOKING PART I

My grandmother  hadn’t wanted to be disturbed when she cooked. So my mother knew nothing about cooking when she married.  She could make lettuce sandwiches.  My dad ate lettuce sandwiches for three weeks and loved my mother enough not to complain. He admitted he hadn’t like lettuce when they married.

So when I, her daughter, was born, she determined I would know my way around a kitchen before I was married. Long before that, my mother had become an excellent cook.

At age ten, I joined the 4-H club with Mom as its leader. Somewhat like Girl Scouts, 4-Hers choose projects for the year. In my first year, I grew a small garden and made a tie-around-the-waist apron. In my second year, I won ribbons for canning fruits and vegetables. According to my “Achievement Book”, I also learned to make salads.

My homemaking skills improved as the years went on. I learned to demonstrate cooking skills. Carrot salad with apple was my first demonstration when I was 11 or 12.  By the time I was in high school, I entered the Dairy Foods Demonstration contest. I showed the audience how to make a custard pie in twenty minutes with time leftover to explain its nutritional benefits.

The first time I practiced making pie crust, it took the entire time. We were allowed pre-measured ingredients, but they had to be added and explained as my work progressed.  The key, I discovered was to work fast and get the dough just right so that it would roll out easily without sticking. The custard was easy. Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Mom bought  three new glass pie pans, which I filled every day for two weeks, until I had my demonstration with the explanation down to the minute.

No one escaped our house without taking some pie with them. My dad declared that he ate pie at least three times a day. He didn’t want a custard pie again for several months.

I won a blue ribbon at the county level. At the state level the judge felt the crust dominated my work and didn’t put dairy foods in the forefront. Since this was sponsored by the Dairy Foods Council, they noted it was an excellent demonstration, but couldn’t give me a blue ribbon.

Another year I demonstrated making Cheese Souffle. This is a main dish for anyone who wants to bring a special dish to the table. The trick for it is timing, so it is ready to come out of the over after everyone is seated. The soufflé stands high above the rim of the dish. Served with a mushroom or shrimp sauce, it brings a chorus of oohs and aahs.

 

Open for recipe for custard pie

IMG_20181030_0001_NEW

CHUM, A COW DOG

Last night, my son Taggart and I were talking about Chum, the cow dog that our family had when I was a child.

My dad had trained him as a cow dog. Chum used that training, but instinctively was much more than that. We regularly had 39 cows. We had a 40-stanchion barn, but the bull occupied one in the back corner. He did not roam outside with the cows.

It often appeared that Chum could count. If any animals were in sight when it was time to bring them to the barn, Dad would simply command Chum to “go get ‘em.” He would get behind the most distant cow and all of them moved toward the barn. Should one not wish to go, Chum ran up behind her and nipped at her heel. In no time the cow learned it was best to go with the others. If some were in the nearby woods, he would ferret them out. Nearly without exception all 39 cows would be rounded up and brought into pasture lot by the barn.

I remember a few times when the cows would come, but Chum didn’t return with them. It was then that Dad would discover a cow was missing. Chum was still searching for her. He would continue searching until Dad called him to come. Then they could search together. Usually that cow had thought the grass was better on the other side of the fence, broken through and strayed. Sometimes a neighbor would telephone that they had spotted our stray.

One summer when I was about ten or eleven, Dad asked if my cousin and I would go over to the woods with Chum to get the cows. He wanted to get an extra load of hay into the barn because rain was predicted. Norma and I agreed. We crossed the flat land. Chum tore ahead of us and was already up the hill beyond and heading into the woods.

Soon the cows came straggling out of the lane that led through the woods. Then we heard Chum bark. We followed the sound because we knew he’d only bark for a reason. We found him trying to persuade a cow with a new baby calf to go to the barn. That was futile.

I knew from Dad that the only way a cow with a calf would go was if the calf was forced to move. Norma and I began the long process of pushing and shoving the calf out of the woods with Chum’s help. As a self-designated protector, he wouldn’t leave me. It was three steps forward and two back. We’d push the baby a distance, mama would call, and the baby would turn back. It took us a long time before we were able to get them out in the open away from the woods.

About that time Dad was back with the hay and realized that we should be back too. He looked out the barn and saw the cows. A minute later he spied us on the edge of the woods. Soon the doodlebug with a wagon attached headed toward us. With the calf on the wagon with us, mama cow followed us to the barn.

Norm and I were proud of ourselves. Dad too. That calf, a female jersey we named Lady, grew up to become one of the best milkers in the barn.

A note: a dairy cow who is not relieved of its milk may get very sick. A calf cannot consume enough of the milk to prevent disease.

 

 

CELEBRATE MAY DAY TODAY

Celebrate May Day the “Old Fashioned Way.”

Find a nine-inch square of paper. When I was a child we used scraps

img20180501_11411186
MAY DAY BOUQUET

of wallpaper. Today I chose a piece of colored computer paper

1. Fold it into a triangle

2. With the fold toward you take one of the points and fold it to the middle of opposite edge.

3. Do the same with the other point.

4. Now fold the front flap of the top into the front bottom cup.

5. Poke or punch a hole into the top flap.

Now go outside and find flowers – even dandelions will be pretty. Tuck them into the pocket or cup you have made.

 

img20180501_12332140
HOW TO FOLD

As children we would hang them on a friend’s door, knock, and then run and hide. The person coming to the door was surprised and hunted down the giver to thank them with a kiss.

* * * * *

You can use this cup for many things. It will hold a drink for a short time.

As a teacher, I always made them for children who lost a tooth at school. It could be safely stored in a lunch pail or coat pocket for the tooth fairy.

Mostly I remember the fun we had making these baskets at school and then going home to search for flowers. I’d beg my mother to let me go down by the creek where I knew the May flowers were in blossom along with purple, white, and yellow violets. I never really went alone because Chum, our cowdog, would not let me. He assumed the duty of protecting me no matter wherever I wandered.