Going After the Cows
My grandmother, Eva (Smith) Cox (1889-1988) was the daughter of James Thomas and Sarah (Sanders) Smith. She grew up on their family farm near Select (pronounced SEE-lect, she said), about two miles or so from Cromwell. She said when she was about eight or ten, one of the daily chores for her and some of her younger brothers and sisters was to go after their eight or ten milk cows and heifers every evening and bring them home to be milked.
Cows had to be milked twice a day, morning and evening. With a family household of eleven people, they used a lot of milk. Their mother first strained the milk, and then used it to cook with, to churn and make butter with, and to drink three times a day at each meal. Sometimes her mother made yellow cheese. Any left-over buttermilk or soured milk was fed to the pigs, ducks and chickens.
After the cows had been milked in the evening, they were penned overnight, and then milked again the next morning. Then the gate to the barn lot was opened, and the cows were turned out to the pasture to stray and graze where they pleased. Most of the time, they wandered over a high hill on the backside of a large pasture about a quarter mile from their house near the woods. They watered quite a distance away in a nearby spring-fed creek. Another pasture held their ten or twelve sheep, and the children could always hear them bleating while they were looking for the cows.
At milking time in the evening, the children went after the cows to be milked and always listened for the tinkling bell that one old mama cow wore around her neck. All the other cows followed her lead and were always grazing nearby. When they heard the tinkling of the cow bell, Grandmother said it sent them in the right direction to find the other cows. Then they herded all of them together and started driving them up to the top of the hill, following a well-worn path toward the barn on the other side. At the bottom of the hill, they each grabbed a younger cow’s tail, started them to running up the hill, and let the cows pull and drag them to the hilltop. The bell on the old lead cow would always be ringing like crazy while they were running.
When they got to the pen lot at the barn, the cows were driven through a gate and put in stalls, where they waited their turn to be milked by the older children.
Going after the cows was one of their regular chores, but the kids made it great fun. She said if her daddy had known what they were doing, he would not have been happy! And they would have been in big trouble! In that day and time, kids thought up all kinds of games and activities to entertain themselves.
~ Janice Brown, Tyler, TX