The cows don’t scare me now, but that day I was terrified.
I didn’t start out knowing or caring about cows. I never thought about being a dairy farmers wife. Cochise and I had big plans for our future together. All this cow stuff wasn’t part of our picture. However, life gets in the way of other plans.
My husband was raised on a dairy farm, milking cows, riding horses, driving the tractors and trucks, delivering milk, baling hay, fishing in the lake and thoroughly loving the whole farm life, except for the endless hard work. That was why his plans for our future didn’t include farming. I, on the other hand, had never been around cows or horses until we started dating. My involvement at that time was occasionally visiting his parents farm, seeing the cows in the field and petting and talking to his horses over the fence, no riding involved. At this point, the horses were too old to ride anymore and were leisurely enjoying retirement grazing in the field with the cows.
After we had been married about a year, Cochise’s father died and his cows had to be milked the next morning. We suddenly and quickly, officially, became dairy farmers. We both had jobs and were working, but he had to give up his job and go to the farm full time. Adjustment, to say the least, for both of us. Since we were farmers, whether we wanted to be or not, he wanted to help me learn to love the things he loved about the farm. To him, the best part of his youth was riding his horses, so he decided that he should buy me a horse. Before he purchased the horse he suggested that I take a few riding lessons since I had never been on a horse in my life.
The only riding lessons that I could find were expensive, 40 miles away, taught by an old guy named Lee, using his even older pony, on an English saddle, in an enclosed ring. Over a period of a few months, I took 6 lessons. By then I was confident that I was well on my way to being an accomplished rider. Now you must keep in mind that when I arrived for my lesson, the pony was saddled, I rode for an hour in the ring closely supervised, got off the horse, handed the reins to Lee and went home. I had no idea of the reality of owning a caring for a horse.
Cochise found me a horse, bought him and had him delivered. He arrived mid-week while I was at work, and since we didn’t live on the farm I didn’t get to see him until Saturday afternoon about milking time. He was a beautiful Tennessee Walker, 15 1/2 hands tall. I was shocked at how big he was. This was my first indication that there was a huge difference in size between the pony I had learned to ride and this animal. I would later learn there was a great deal of difference also in the training, but that is another tale. This was just one of my many shocking awakenings in the owning a horse category. Plus, he didn’t seem to like me very much. He wouldn’t come to me when I called his name as he was grazing at the other end of the pasture with all the cows.
I proceed into the milking parlor to find out what was wrong with that horse he bought me because he wouldn’t come when I called. Cochise had 6 cows in the stanchions and about 70 more waiting outside the door with their leg crossed. He didn’t have time for horse training 101. He said get that bucket over there and scoop up some feed and walk into the pasture. He’ll come. So I did just that. I walked into the field swinging the bucket in my hand with total confidence that the horse would walk up to me, stop and eat out of the bucket and allow me to pet his head and walk him back to the barn. Notice, I haven’t mentioned anything about having a bridle with me, or about the western saddle I was to use when I got him, that will be another story. I also failed to mention, that I walked out into the pasture with absolutely no consideration of the cows. My only interest or concern was getting my new horse.
In the pasture I was walking carefully, looking down to miss – you know what. I was about halfway across the field and suddenly I heard a loud thundering noise. I looked up and the whole herd of cows, including my horse, were running toward me at full speed. Stampede!! I had seen that on TV and I knew to run. I threw that bucket of feed up in the air and started running, screaming and crying back to the barn.
Cochise charged out of the milking parlor frantic to see what had happened to me. I was terrified and positive that if I had not outrun them, I would have been trampled. Killed before my time! When he got to me, calmed me down, and figured out what I was saying he looked up and started laughing, doubled over, tears in his eyes laughing. Of course, I was livid! I had encountered a near death experience and he was laughing at me. Finally, he got enough control of himself to say look, pointing out into the pasture where my bucket lay. The stampede had ended exactly where I had dropped the bucket and the feed. All the cows and my horse were peacefully eating. He tried to explain that if I had stood there they would have come to me and stopped, but to this day I don’t believe him.
This lesson was well learned, “The Fairy” never again tried to bring the cows home with a bucket of feed. However, there is another story for another time about the cows getting out in the middle of the night and Cochise and I rounding them up at midnight. Like I said, there are more farm stories. Stay tuned.
This picture reminds me of the way the farm use to look. It’s been gone a long time, but the memories remain, some good, some not so good, but all making a collective whole to a life and a lifestyle few ever have the opportunity to enjoy or endure. Depending on how you look at it.