Thursday, June 18, 2009

Part - 14h - Cows


14h. COWS

For a number of years, Daddy owned forty acres of land in the "Prairies." This was about two miles NE of the house. The land was "gumbo" clay (very sticky and slick when wet) and had coral rock all thru it. (Someone said that, at one time the area was under the sea.) Daddy had arranged with Mr. Henry Williams to build a lane across the East side of his land so Daddy's cows could go from the "Big Barn" (an open barn with hay racks and troughs for feeding cattle.) which was across the road from the house. There was a pasture around the Big Barn with about 40 acres in it.

Daddy had a cattle-loading chute that was also a platform for a scale. He would know how much his cattle weighed before taking them to market. Of course, we all had to stand in the chute and be weighed every once in a while.

Things got tight, money wise, and cattle prices got low, so Daddy sold all of his cows except about six or eight for milking. Also, he sold the Prairie land to B. K. Smith.

One of the cows that he kept was named Sadie because he bought her from Mr. James Martin. One of Sadie's calves was reddish brown, and was named Rose. Mother and Daddy gave Rose to me for an Agriculture project when I was in ninth grade. Rose had May, June and countless other calves which were also mine. We kept May for a while, and I learned firsthand not to keep a cow's first calf. Her first calf was nothing but a spindly runt. June was Rose's second calf and turned out to be a very good brood cow.

Rose and June were probably the smartest cows we had, especially June. When she wanted to get out of the stall, she'd simply butt it open. If she wanted water, she'd take her tongue and turn the water on. (She never did learn to turn the water off after she got a drink!) If she wanted to go through a gate, she'd take her nose and slide the latch to open it. We learned to remove the handle on the water faucet, drill a hole in the gate and latch and put a nail through it to prevent her from sliding it, etc.

Sadie had developed a ruptured milk gland, so Joe took her and some goats to market, sold them and bought Frosty. She had the smallest bag and shortest teats and was the hardest thing to milk than any cow we had. Finally, Frosty died near the pond. We think someone was shooting at ducks or something and the bullet ricocheted off the water and killed her.

That left me with all the cows. When I left for college, I gave all them back to Mother and Daddy. Later, they gave me Easter, another reddish brown, mottled face cow. Her last calf was #25, which was Carrie's favorite. Willie found Easter dead down in the little flat when #25 was just a calf.

Not long before Mother died, Joe bought all the cows from her. He would spend quite a bit of time when he was home reworking fences, etc. Then, after Mother died, I bought the herd from Joe.

I've had as many as 37 head of cows and calves.

After owning the cows for a while, the bull I had started “shooting blanks” and I missed a whole year’s crop of calves along with a no good bull. So, instead of buying a bull and having no calves to sell, I decided to sell the heard to David Atchison and Joe and I leased the pasture land to him. Now, I enjoy seeing the cows grazing each morning down across the flat while I’m shaving. And, if I want to get out amongst them, I can.

There is one cow still here that has always been kinda special. George called me one Wednesday morning and told me that the cow with the long white face (Zella) had a new baby girl calfie. I came up from Mobile the next day along with Sonny and Bobby. I started looking for Zella while riding around the pasture. First, we found Lou with a new calf behind the dam. Then we saw Zella down by the creek, lowing. When we got down there, I found the calf lying in the edge of the creek. Apparently it had gotten too close to the bank and fell in. So, I got my boots, went in and toted the calf up the creek bank to its mama. She walked off with the calf following. The next morning, I noticed that the calf hadn’t suckled and was getting weak. So, I borrowed a calf bottle from David and for the first time in about 50 years, I milked the cow. I had to make a temporary “break” so she wouldn’t walk away. I fed the calf on that milk and another milking. By the time we started feeding her the bottle, the calf was almost blind from lack of nutrients that newborn calves need. Then I got some powdered milk and mixed up a bottle or two of that and gave it to the calf.

Zella was a big, gentle cow, but you couldn’t get to her to touch or pet her. She’d simply turn and walk away as you approached her. That Sunday morning, JoAnne and I went out to the barn to check on them. I put out some sweet feed in one of the troughs under the barn and Zella started eating it. Then, I got hold of the calf, pulled her up to her mama and put a teat in her mouth and she learned quickly what to do with it. Zella never even attempted to move or walk away.

I called George and told him to keep them in the lot for a few days and watch to see if the calf was suckling. On Tuesday, he called me back and said that the little calfie was really eating well and her eyes had cleared up. So, I told him to let them out into the pasture.

After that, any time I’d get near Zella, she and the calf would walk away. Then after about a month, I was out in the pasture and the calf walked up to me and I started scratching her head. I can still walk up to her or she’ll walk up to me and I’ll scratch her head! That cow is “Miss Priss.”

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