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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cowslip was a good cow.

Cowslip, our elderly blind cow, has died. She was down about five days before she peacefully died.


Cowslips Story.

Many years ago when we were rebuilding our herd we used to exchange bull calves for heifer calves with our neighbor. The last time we did it we got three heifer calves whom I called Bluebell, Snowdrop and Cowslip.

Brad always had a strong dislike for Bluebell. I recall long ago he was riding Foxsun trying to chase the herd through a gate that they had never gone before, so they could go across the county road to our pastures along Crab Creek. They'd never been chased by a horse and had no idea the gate existed. They just kept stampeding by the opening in the barbed wire fence. Then Foxsun, who isn't one to over do anything, decided to call it a day and take a nap.

I found Brad shouting and swearing as he fired up his old motorcycle to chase the herd. Just before he took off in a cloud of black smoke I asked him where Foxsun was and he said something rather awful and unkind about Foxsun.

As the herd raced away from the feeder and the mad man on the motorcycle, Foxsun, fully tacked, was left behind with his head hanging down looking really done in. I got on him thinking I was going to have some cow chasing fun but realized why Brad was mad at him. Foxsun was on strike.

I managed to lead him back to the corrals where I let him recharge his battery for awhile. When I started riding out to catch up with the excitement to my delight I saw a 12 year old girl on her pony Peanuts, coming to help. She lived on a ranch two miles from here. In the twenty years I've had Foxsun, I've only rode with another horse and rider four times, so I was in heaven. We talked about ponies and stuff and casually caught up with the chase. Just as we got within sight of Brad who was in hot pursuit of Bluebell, Snowdrop and Cowslip, I saw Bluebell haul off and kick Brad clean off that stinking motorcycle. I put Foxsun in top gear, (mach 5 for Foxsun, slow canter for all other horses), to where Brad was. We didn't even get close before Brad was up and on the motorcycle again chasing the three young cows. Brad ended up with a huge bruise on his shin and Bluebell ended up going to the sale at Davenport.

Several years later Snowdrop suddenly died. Cowslip stood next to Snowdrop's dead body refusing to leave until Snowdrop was buried. It was after Snowdrop died that we realized there was something very wrong with Cowslip. Our neighbor took one look at her and said she was blind. Then it all made sense. Snowdrop had been her eyes and without her old friend she was lost and afraid of the other cows and new places. Judging by Cowslips pale brown eyes, I'd say she been born blind.

Over the years we had to help Cowslip out of many bad situations. Once, while in a new pasture she was left behind. Lost and alone she gave up. We found her sitting on the side of a hill very thirsty and lost. She had no idea where to go for water. Brad led her to the creek with a handful of hay. She came to trust us to help her. She didn't know her place in the herd so was afraid of all the cows and even the calves. Besides us and her own calves, she trusted only Foxsun not to hurt her. In the winter at feeding time she would leave the herd and walk through two corrals and wait for us in her secret place. We kept her hay there for her. She wouldn't go to any place where she hadn't been years ago when Bluebell and Snowdrop led her. When the cattle went on the bluff she stayed behind. In her younger years if the cattle escaped and went anyplace unfamiliar to her, she'd return home to the corrals. She alerted us a few times to their unofficial adventures.

She used her ears and nose to get around, but many times I saw her walk into a fence post or other objects. She would walk into us if we didn't make a noise or push her away.

A few years ago I was taking a walk with Bobby. I was surprised to come across Foxsun and Cowslip about a mile from home, happily eating grass. There had been an electric fence but it had been long ago knocked down by deer. Both of them knew there should have been an electric fence there so they still respected it and stayed on their side of the invisible wire where they belonged. I stood there and looked at them in amazement. They had the freedom to go anywhere in the this county, or the next, and they were standing next to a 130 acre circle of alfalfa, yet I knew they'd never walk over to it because one was an unadventurous horse the other a blind cow who only went where she'd been before.

A few years ago when everybody predicted Cowslip would die during the winter, she made it to March, staggered off by herself, lay down and had twins in an icy puddle because she couldn't never see where she was giving birth. We had to get the calves in the house because they were near death with cold. Brad had to go out and milk her for the colostrum so we could stomach tube the calves to save their lives. Milking a blind range cow is dangerous to say the least, but Brad did it. All the memories of our years with Cowslip all come back to me. Her life was intertwined with ours for about 17 years.

Of those three heifers, it was the blind one who lived a long and productive life. On a warm October afternoon she finally lay her beautiful head down and went to sleep forever. I hope she's with her old friends Bluebell and Snowdrop again. I'll miss her, she was a good cow.



Lea and her Mustangs said...

That is kind of a sad story. I am sorry. She lived a happy life.

Cheryl Ann said...

Awww....'ya got me in tears! What a long life! And, she was loved, that's for sure! Thank you for sharing her story.

Norma said...

What a lovely, warm story. I'm linking. Maybe you'll enjoy my story about Beau.

Anonymous said...

I came from Norma's link. What a good story. It is nice to think that people can take such good care of animals, even those on farms. It puts farmers and ranchers in a good light when people see stories like this. It makes us want to support our traditional farmers like I grew up with in upstate New York and Co. Cork.

arlene said...

Thank you.
Brad and I both love animals. We loose a lot of money by keeping the old girls around to live out their lives. I get such a good feeling from them and it's priceless.
I'll check out Beau's story.