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Behold the Village Cows
“I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one
But I can tell you anyhow
I’d rather see than be one”
This funny little ditty was written by Gelett Burgess in 1895 and first appeared in his magazine. It is now considered public domain free for all.
No, I’ve never seen a purple cow, but I was well acquainted with the village cows who lived with many of the village residents in my childhood days. We knew their names and were aware of the differing dispositions of those milk givers. Some were gentle, some were not. Let me introduce you to a few of them.
A pair that I recall were Ruby and Daisy who were mother and daughter. Ruby despised kids and would seriously chase them out of her sight. On the other hand her daughter, Daisy, was very gentle, but refused to be weaned and still wanted to nurse even when she was as big as her mom.This was a problem. A muzzle worked temporarily, but the nursing resumed once it was removed. Daisy had to leave her mother and live elsewhere. I hoped she was happy wherever that was.
Another village cow was Floss who had no pasture so was staked out to graze the grassy areas along the village streets. She was very patient with the gang of kids who liked to share time with her. She would lie quietly in a shady spot chewing her cud while kids played all around her. One of them thought it would be fun to sit on her back, but Floss decided against that so she rose, rear end first, and dumped her passenger off as she stood up. Lesson learned.
Another village cow belonged to an elderly lady who staked her out along other streets. Mischievous town boys liked to move the cow to other areas, so the lady had to search for her each evening. No, that was not funny.
Old Jerz was taken out to pasture each morning after the morning milking, then walked back to the barn in town for the evening milking. She was a common sight walking along unrestrained with Danny following. She knew the way and the dairy food that awaited so never once felt like altering her route and frolic away. It was just steady steps each way. Good girl.
Our cow was a gentle little jersey with fashionable curved horns. She provided rich milk which filled the milk bucket twice each day when she was “fresh”. She enjoyed a portion of dairy feed and some hay while someone sat on a T shaped milking stool and made the milk splash into the milk bucket. Foam formed on the top which was poured into the barn cats’ pan before being taken into the kitchen where it was strained into crocks. Some filled glass bottles to be sold to neighbors who had no cow. I think it was 15 cents for a quart, 10 cents for a pint. Kids delivered it to front porches and received a few cents each week for doing a good job. I remember a customer who had a sassy little black dog that brought out dread in me of an encounter with her. One dark evening I quietly approached the front porch when a waft of wind blew the vines at the end of it causing me to scream….and then here came Blackie! EEEEEKKK! What’s that old saying about a coward dies a thousand deaths……
Susie’s pasture mate was Bossy who was not a friendly cow toward children. She shook her head and pawed some dirt if any kid came near. She never hurt anyone because her message was clearly understood so her space was always respected.
Another cow that lived with us briefly was Brownie. She was a large brown Swiss who resented confinement. Her tracks made big holes in the yard when she escaped so she went somewhere else to live that had more room for her.
These are a few of the village cows I recall. Many villagers had at least one milk cow along with a flock of chickens that provided abundant and healthy food for the family meals. The cows provided milk for drinking, cottage cheese, butter, butter milk, sour cream for those chocolate cakes, whipped cream and that clotted cream which was so delicious on the morning oatmeal or a bowl of sweetened blackberries. A regular summer time treat was ice cream for Sunday supper. Also worth mentioning was the fertilizer provided for the vegetable garden. Ahem.
True, I never saw a purple cow, but I did know many others. In some ways those village cows were like the village people. Some were patient, gentle and kind. Others were a little nervous and knew how to put kids in their proper places.
Today those cows have been replaced by larger dairy units with milking machines and the pasteurized and homogenized milk found in the dairy cases at the grocery store. Whipping cream, half and half, butter, cottage cheese and other kinds of cheeses, buttermilk and sour cream are packaged separately. Ice cream is there, too, in all sizes and flavors, so no complaints. I really don’t miss wild onion or grassy flavored milk at all. The memories are all that remain of those village cows and those simple times of long ago. Hmmmm. I think I’ll have a bowl of ice cream now.