Monday, March 05, 2007

Something in the way she mooooooves...

I've only ever known one cow up close and personal, but I thought of her the other day as I passed this pasture on my way home from work. Her name was Hoover.

When I was 18, sometime in the eight weeks between the date of my first marriage and the discovery that I was expecting a baby, my husband bought a little patch of land he called "the farm." I never really knew what his plans were for the property (I never knew much about any of his business), but it came with a wire fence around it, an open-sided animal shelter, a white Shetland pony named Silly, and Hoover, a very pregnant Jersey cow.

I don't know what arrangements my husband had made to see that the animals were fed on a regular basis, but occasionally, on weekends, we'd ride out to the farm together. While my husband did whatever it was he did on a borrowed tractor, my job was to stay out of his way. Hoover was usually at the far end of the field, and Silly, whenever I'd get close to him, would try to bite me, so I couldn't occupy myself with the animals. Not one to insist on helping with farm chores, I'd walk back into the thick woods that covered a portion of the property and read in the shade.

By the time I found out I was pregnant, my new marriage was already in trouble. Still, I was happy about the news. I thought a baby might be just what we needed to help us focus on working out our differences. Unfortunately, I was not one of those lucky women who look and feel wonderful during pregnancy. I was sick all day every day, with no time off for good behavior. On top of everything else, we were far away from friends and family, and I was working at a job I didn't like. I was lonelier than I'd ever been.

A few months later another young woman my age came to work in our office, and she and I became friends. One Sunday she rode with my husband and me to the farm. He got busy, and my friend and I headed back into the woods. We walked until we came to a little gully, dry at that time from the lack of recent rain. We climbed down into it and sat with the gentle slope of the opposite bank against our backs.

My friend was funny and bright, also a newlywed, and we had plenty of things to talk about. She was a pretty girl, and as we sat there talking, I began to mentally compare my swollen middle to her slender figure. I wondered if I'd ever feel pretty again. I didn't want to burden our budding friendship by talking about my pregnancy issues, so we chatted about other things instead. Even with her good company, I felt lonely. I longed for someone in whom I could confide, someone who could relate to the way it felt to inhabit such an alien, bulky body.

That's what was on my mind when we heard a rustling in the trees. The sound that broke the quiet was unfamiliar and a little frightening, until we looked up to see Hoover coming toward us at a steady pace. Even then, we didn't know what to expect.

Hoover's big belly, heavy with calf, swung from side to side as she walked. At the edge of the gully, she stopped abruptly and stood there for a moment, looking from one of us to the other, as if she were sizing us up. Then she began moving again, ever so carefully, down the slope and across to our side of the gully. She turned herself around and heaved her huge body onto the ground beside me. For the rest of the afternoon she lay there, watching and listening and chewing a little grass...just one of the girls.

From that day on, I loved that cow.


  1. After reading this wonderful story, it looks like I'll be eating lots of fish instead of hamburgers for awhile.

  2. Wow, what a great story, Mom...this really touched me. I don't ever remember hearing you tell this one before, but the way you wrote about it is so vivid that I can picture everything, and feel how you must have felt. It's almost like I was...uh...there. ;)

    (Is it too late for me to apologize for the nausea and bloat thing?)

    I love you.


  3. Chumly, thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about eating fish instead of beef. I felt that way for a few days after I saw these cows. But then I got over it. The memory of my last steak easily overpowered my puny sentimental streak.

    Kim, just when you thought you'd heard every story I've ever told a thousand times, I managed to pull another one out of my hat. I love that! And please don't apologize. You--and your sister--made up for all that nausea with your very first smiles.

  4. That was a great story! I'm almost afraid to ask what became of Hoover.

  5. Janet, I'm not certain, but if I remember correctly, the farm--and the animals--were sold to help pay for the baby. Which was okay. I loved her even more than Hoover.

  6. Velvet, I had a bull friend as a teenager. Their kindness is rather amazing. I loved this story very much. It is one of my favorites of yours! Thanks for sharing. Holly

  7. Your essay is beautiful written and evoked many memories for me of those days when I too transitioned from being a young bride to a mother. My husband didn't make the transition from young suitor to father and our marriage became troubled and eventually ended, just as yours did. I needed a Hoover then!

  8. Your story brought back many memories for me. I remember feeling so alone during my pregnancy. What brought me joy was knowing within 9 months, I would be sharing my life with two wonderful new people, thinking it would make my marriage more tolerable. Boy, was I wrong.
    P.S. I've always wanted to own a cow, I even had her name chosen, "Clarabella".

  9. That's a great story, Velvet. I could hear Hoover's hooves coming toward you, the rustling in the trees. And I could see her swollen belly. Nice memory to share.

  10. in Tyler, Texas a spotted black cow greeted me every morning by looking in my bedroom window. It use to make me so mad but now I think about her and laugh. That big ol thing had to be chased back home every morning and at the time it seemed like such a bother. Raisin was her name, just a big ol cow looking in my window every morning chewing her cud looking at me with those big browns. At the time I was annoyed but how I long for that annoyance now.

    Did you and the lady remain friends for a time?


  11. Holly, I think you were brave to make friends with a bull. How'd you know he'd be nice?

    Annie, I know exactly what you mean when you write about that transition. When I married at 18, my husband was seven years older. Two babies later, when I was 21, I'd become older than he was. Funny how that works.

    Schrems, I think a lot of women think, as you and I did, that a baby is going to fix everything in a marriage. Where did we get that idea? (Do you think there might be a Clarabella someday in your future?)

    D.I., the little moments make the best memories sometimes, don't they?

    Austin, how funny! You're the only person I've ever encountered who's had a run-in with a Peeping Cow.

    We moved back near our families when the baby was six months old, and I lost touch with my new friend sometime after that.

  12. Velvet, You've inspired me (yet AGAIN!). I'm going to blog about Buster real soon. But basically, I wandered off in the woods and he followed and started playing with me. He was a calf at that point. We were good friends from that day on.

    I've decided after pondering the story of you and Hoover that she must of been in the same condition...just needing a friend who understood. I'm certain she KNEW you were with child too.

  13. I too hated being pregnant. Was not a good time for me. I prefer the Grandkids to my old as little ones. I love girls but it was really a 'full time job' with no vacations and became a drudge at times. It is nice to be able to say it!!
    code was x big fue
    I guess that is me.

  14. I would be very happy if there would be a Clarabella in my future. I would want her for no other reason, then to take care of her, and to be my friend. Then would come the horse and roosters ;)

  15. Creekhiker, I can't wait to read about Buster!

    Sister-Three, the best thing about grandchildren is that they're somebody else's responsibility. You can love 'em as much as you want, then send 'em home.

    Schrems, are you any kin to Old MacDonald?


Your comments might be the very best thing about blogging. I love it when you care enough to share your thoughts here, so go ahead and say what's on your mind.