Skip to content

Cows, Part I

Bittersweet Creek by Sally KilpatrickIn the weeks leading up to Bittersweet Creek, I’ll be talking about some true stories that inspired the book. After all, I kinda consider Romy and Julian’s story to be my love letter to West Tennessee. Today’s topic: cows. (Several of my friends are pointing out that cows are often the topic of the day in my world *shrug*)

Why would I write a story that’s all “Shakespeare. . . with cows”? Because I had a pet cow. (And a mother who frequently quoted Shakespeare, but that’s a story for another post)

So, the story goes that I, like just about any preteen girl you’ll ever meet, really wanted a horse. I read Black Beauty and all of the Black Stallion books. I read Misty of Chincoteague and just about every other horse book I could find. I even had an adult book that outlined the different breeds of horses, and I read that from cover to cover. Finally, I asked my Daddy for a horse.

About that.

My ever pragmatic father informed me in no uncertain terms that horses were more money and more trouble than they were worth. He offered to give me a cow instead.

My Bambi. Please note the eat you-know-what-and-die expression. (ca 1987)

Resigned to bovine rather than equine, I read up on the 4-H Heifer Project. I even dragged my father along to the information meeting. At the time I thought that all of this about showing heifers was too much pageantry for him–and that could be the case–but I really think, in looking back, that he was working a LOT of hours and knew we wouldn’t have the time to do the heifer thing the 4-H way. He offered me a compromise: he would give me a heifer and I would receive the proceeds from her calf sales as long as I helped him feed the cows and drove for him while he hauled hay, etc.

I’m glad we struck that bargain. Sometimes I still miss going with him to feed the cows. Of course, things are different now that he’s gone to round bales. Back in the day, we had square bales and would have to remove the twine and break them out for the cows. Now it’s a matter of taking a huge round bale and putting the ring around it.

Also, the current bull is a real ass. I’ve met many a bull and many a cow, but he’s the only one to ever really lower his head and threaten me. Sure, I was kicked once, but that was my own fault for standing too close behind the cow in question. I’ve also had my foot stepped on–I put that in my book–but, again, that was my own fault for standing between Bambi and the feed trough and–thank goodness–I was wearing steel-toed boots.

Speaking of my own cow, I chose a spindly little heifer with big ears and named her Bambi. At the time she looked a bit like a baby deer, but she grew into a squat, attitude-filled black Angus with, I think, a hint of Beefmaster. Poor baby’s growth was stunted a little bit because she was bred too soon, but she developed into a fine cow and produced several calves. If memory serves, she took her mothering a bit too seriously, often nursing other calves as well as her own. Many times the money that I earned from the sale of her calves went to pay for my college textbooks.

What are the odds I could’ve taught Miss Attitude to do this?

Come to think of it, Bambi was so gentle, I probably could’ve put a saddle on her and ridden her. She really only had two rules: not to hug her neck and not to push her nose into the ground while she was trying to graze. Pretty reasonable, if you ask me. (Also, if you’re wondering how we discovered these two things that Bambi did not like, may I refer you to my father who liked to…hug her neck and/or gently push on her head while she was trying to graze)

The Hereford there is Claude, he's the inspiration for the McElroy's bull. He was a good one.
The Hereford in the middle is Claude, he’s the inspiration for the McElroy’s bull. He was a good one, my favorite of all the bulls we had.

And that’s one of the reasons I included cows in Bittersweet Creek. I really have driven for someone while they hauled hay. I really did have a cow and helped feed her. I really have tromped through pastures.

So I’m the girl who wanted a horse but ended up with a cow that I named for a deer–and that probably tells you a whole heckuva lot about me.


Published inBlogSuper Writer Mom Blog