Don’t suppose there are many people out there who, hand on heart, can say that their psychological well-being, childhood happiness and, perhaps, just perhaps, their continued existence beyond early teenage years was largely dependant on their relationship with a cow.
We had three milking cows on the farm.
Darkie, a Friesian, standing at just under 5′ was a gentle giant, but territorial, even without calf. The odd ‘dunch’ could easily land you flat on your back when you least expected it.
Tammy, a red Holstein cross, feisty and independent, who had to be approached with extreme care. Her kick meant that milking time held an unusual edge of danger, with the loss of an entire bucket of milk being the norm.
And then there was Tiny.
Possibly the smallest Ayrshire cow in the county, she was a prodigious milker. Her inquisitive nature got her into trouble on more than one occasion. She had an incredible level of patience, and was the most even-tempered of all the animals on the farm.
As a kid, my existence, between the ages of 10 and 14, was pretty much made a living hell by a group of about 4 “older boys”. My nightly chores included cleaning out the byre, restocking hay, drawing water for the cows, brushing them down… and it was in Tiny, during this nightly ritual, that I confided all my frustrations.
She was a great listener. Never once made any judgement on the situation, and taught me the art of working through these things for oneself.
After an unfortunate accident (Darkie decided to get a little amorous with Tiny at “that time of the year”, which left Tiny with a twist to her hips) Tiny became a lot less mobile, and spent more and more time inside. The chores extended to mowing fresh grass for Tiny too. And, amazingly, during this time I discovered that she loved being sung to (a trait shared by most cows, I later found…) irrespective of how poor the singing… It’s difficult to fully express just how relaxing singing to a cow, as you brush her down, really is.
Or just how much understanding and love is passed, through these infinitely deep, brown pools they have for eyes.
I cried for days when the dairy cows were finally sold to a lowland farmer. Just how much I lost that day, putting them on the lorry and saying goodbye, was impossible to discuss with the family. I still miss her dearly, and think of her often…
Thanks for everything, Tiny. I owe you a debt beyond payment.