A Girl and her Cow

One day in the early spring, our cow, Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10-year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.

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This is my niece. She’s growing up on the same farm that I did.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly-legged calf was not her.  This new calf looked a lot like Belle: mostly black with just the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly.  Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  It didn’t take any love or marriage for cows, ’cause cows didn’t have souls.  They were still God’s creatures, that’s for sure, but they never ate apples from that tree in the Garden of Eden, so no rules, and no sins. ‘Course there weren’t any cows in heaven either, so that was the down side of all that freedom.

Dad was really good at picking out names; he picked out all the girls names at my house, except for Mom’s of course.  Any Dodo bird would know that.  Dad even helped me name my doll, Jonesy-Belle, so for sure he would be a good help with this new calf of mine, the only one, besides Belle who was a genuine, registered Holstein.  Me and Dad put our heads together for days, trying to come up with names.  Dad helped Bonita name her calf Black Eyes; that was easy, she was mostly white with a few giant black blotches, and big black circles around her eyes.  Besides that, Dad called Bonita his black-eyed Susan, so Bonita loved calling her calf, Black Eyes.  Bonita was too little for 4-H and Black Eyes was just a regular old Holstein calf, not a registered Holstein, like mine.

One evening, while Dad was milking Belle, he said, “I got an idea, let’s name her after someone in the Vice-President’s family.”  He rested his head against Belle’s belly, and turned just enough to look at me. Continue reading

Ladybird, A Blue Ribbon Heifer

Emblem of the 4H organisation.

Emblem of the 4H organisation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August is 4-H fair month.  I ran into some new friends who have daughters in 4-H and of course that got me ruminating about my experience.

The year I turned ten, in early spring, our cow, Old Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10 year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly legged calf was not her.

My new calf looked a lot like Old Belle: mostly black with the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly. There really is such a thing as a perfect look when it comes to Holsteins.  Too much white is bad, no white is bad too.

Old Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  Dr. Friese came to the door and asked for a tea-cup of hot water.  That’s how I knew a cow was gonna be pregnant pretty soon.  I had to stay in the house, I never got to watch, just like when the pigs got castrated. Continue reading

Secrets in the Boys’ Room

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Cent...

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Center of the Boy Scouts of America in Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never heard of Girl Scouts when I was a little girl.  We had 4-H instead.  I did know about Boy Scouts, because Dad’s friend Hal King was a Troop Leader.  He had a uniform and everything, just like he was still in the army.  Loren Dee-dee-bopper was still in diapers and my other brothers were just twinkles in Dad’s eye when he took me and Bonita and Deanna to the Boy Scout Camp.  That’s why we knew next to nothing about boys.  Deanna’s best friend Nancy from across the street went along, plus her dad.  Probably all the moms and Dougie and probably little Vickie and Loren Dee-dee-bopper, but this story is about an eye-opening discovery made by little girls.

Hal King’s Boy Scout Camp was way far away in the wood, full of tall pine trees all growing close together.  I loved to climb trees Continue reading

Old Red, Old Friends

When I was a young girl, I had a horse named Old Red.  Red was my reward for riding my bike three miles every day to Mr. R’s house, where Bonita and I learned to ride.  Bonita was the horse lover; I loved Bonita.  Bonita learned to ride on Peaches, and I learned to ride on Big Joe.  Bonita’s reward was Pokey, mine was Big Red.  I loved Big Red, but to tell the truth, that horse could be a pain in the neck:  he was lazy and willful and often disobedient.  In spite of all my perseverance and persistence, sometimes my will failed to triumph over a half-ton horse.

After all that riding back and forth to Mr. R’s house, Bonita proved she had gumption and really, really, really wanted a horse.  More important, she proved she could stick though the tough stuff, so she was a pretty good bet on taking care of her horse.  Still, Mom played it safe by getting a gelding with a name that suited his temperament.  ‘Cause Pokey, was, well, Pokey.  Bonita rode Pokey every single day.  Pokey knew all the same signals as Peaches and Big Joe.  Old Red came to us a bit later, so Bonita and I could ride together.  That was way more fun than Bonita riding all by herself.  Old Red had a name that fit him, too.

Sometimes, especially on a hot day, or a day when the grass was new and and the air was full of the green smell, or on a day when the oat fields bent their heads down heavy and golden, those two horses Continue reading

A Drink to 4-H Cooking

Connie and Me when we were seven.

The summer I turned 10, I signed up for 4-H Cooking with my best friend and blood sister, Connie.  Mrs. T, my friend Annette’s mom was our leader.  She could make all kinds of delicious stuff from the Old Country, same as my Grandma Z.  She never taught us that stuff, ’cause she just knew it in her head with nothing written down.  I watched her make pierogies:  squares of dough with potatoes or sauerkraut or sweet plums,  some kind of cheese that looked like cottage cheese, but was something else way better tasting.  Mrs. T’s round face got beet-red as she plinked the pierogies gently into the steaming kettle.  She looked the happiest like that:  dark hair plastered around her round flushed face, scooping the cooked pierogies out with a slotted spoon and sprinkling the sweet ones with powdered sugar.  4-Hers had to make stuff from a recipe.

The first things Mrs. T taught us was Boston Coolers and Black Cows.  Me and Connie already knew how to make lots of stuff on account of us both being part of the Big Kids in our families, so it seemed like 4-H Cooking was gonna be a breeze.  For somebody who never did anything in the kitchen, Black Cows and Boston coolers helped her learn how to measure and mix, ’cause that’s all you do with those two things:  take some ice cream and some pop and mix them up and pour them in a glass.  Mrs. T taught us Continue reading