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Willliam J. Hopkins

The Cow Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

One morning, the old rooster crowed very early, as soon as it began to be light. And that waked Uncle John and Aunt Deborah, and Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis. And they all got up and put on their clothes and came down-stairs. Then Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis went about their work in the kitchen, getting things for breakfast and fixing the fire; and Uncle Solomon and Uncle John went out to the barn. Uncle Solomon looked after the horses and gave them their breakfast, and Uncle John looked after the cows.


Between the two great doors of the barn there was a great open place so that the wagons could go right through; and that was where they threshed the wheat. And on one side were the stalls for the horses and the places for the oxen, and on the other side were the places for the cows. In the corner of the barn next to the horses was the harness-room, and in the corner next to the cows was the milk-room.

There were two big horses and two big oxen and six cows. The horses were in stalls, but the cows didn't have stalls. They stood in a row on a kind of a low platform, with their heads toward the open place in the middle of the barn. Each cow had her head through a kind of frame made of two boards that went up from the floor, so that when the boards were fastened at the top she couldn't get her head out, but she could move it up and down all she wanted to. And when they wanted to let the cows out, they unfastened one of the boards and let it down. But Uncle John didn't like the frames for the cows, so he never fastened the boards at all, but he put a chain around the neck of each cow and hooked the other end to a post.

In front of each cow was a little low wall, about as high as her neck, and just behind the wall was a trough that they call a manger, where they could put hay or meal or other things for the cow to eat, so that she could reach it. Just over the manger of each cow was a hole in the floor of the loft where the hay was, so that they could put hay through and it would fall right into the manger, in front of the cow. In winter the cows had hay, but in summer they didn't have hay, because they could eat the grass, and that was better.

So, when Uncle John went to look after the cows, he didn't climb up to the loft and pitch some hay down through the holes, as he would do in winter, but he took a wooden measure and went to a big box that they call a bin. It stood in the corner next to the milk-room, and it was full of meal that was ground up from corn at the mill. And he gave each cow a measureful of meal and put it in the manger so that she could eat it.

Then he went to the milk-room and got the big milk pails and his milking-stool. The milking-stool was a little stool that had three legs, and one of the legs was shorter than the other two, so that it sloped.

Then Uncle John put the milking-stool down by a cow, and the pail was between his knees, resting on the end of the stool. And he milked the cow and the milk spurted into the pail. And when she had given all the milk she had, the pail was about half full.

Then Uncle John went to the next cow and milked her, and when that pail was full, he took the other pail. And so he milked all the cows, one after the other, and when both the pails were full, he took them to the milk-room and poured the milk through a strainer into a big can. And the cows were eating their meal all the time they were being milked.

At the side of the barn, behind the cows, was a door that opened into the cow-yard. A sloping place led down from the barn to the ground, so that the cows could walk down into the yard. In the winter, the cows stayed in the cow-yard while they were out of the barn, because it was sunny and warm, and there was no grass in the field for them to eat. A high fence was all around the yard, and in one corner was a tub made of a hogshead cut in two, and a pump was beside it. And the tub was always full of water, so that the cows could drink whenever they were thirsty. So, when Uncle John had milked all the cows, he opened the door into the cow-yard, and he unhooked the chains from the necks of the cows, one after another. And the cows turned around and walked through the door and down the sloping place into the cow-yard, the leader first, and every cow took a drink from the tub in the corner of the yard. Then they stood by the gate, waiting for little John to come.

When a lot of cows are together, one of the cows is always the leader, and she always goes first, wherever they go. If any other cow tries to go first, the leader butts that one and makes her go behind. Or if the other cow doesn't want to go behind, they put their horns together and push, and the one that pushes harder is the leader.

So the cows waited at the gate, and little John had come down-stairs and Aunt Deborah had given him a piece of johnny-cake, because breakfast wasn't ready and little boys are always hungry. Then little John came to the gate to the cow-yard, and opened the gate, and the cows hurried to go through the gate, the leader first, and the others following after.


And they went along the little track and through the gate into the road, and along the road to the great enormous field. And there they stopped, for the bars were up and they had to wait for little John to come along and let them down, so that they could go through.

And little John came running along, eating his piece of johnny-cake, and kicking up the dirt with his bare feet, for in the summer-time he didn't wear any shoes or stockings. And he came to the gate and he let the bars down at one end, and the cows stepped over the bars carefully, the leader first, and went into the field. And little John put the bars up again, so that the cows couldn't get out, and he turned around and ran back to the farm-house to get his breakfast.

When the cows were all in the field, they began to eat the grass; and they walked slowly about, eating the grass, until they had had all they wanted. Then they went over to the corner of the field, where there was a stream of water running along, and each cow took a drink of water. In the middle of the field was a big tree with long branches and a great many leaves, so that under the tree it was shady and cool. By the time the cows had eaten all the grass they wanted, it was hot out in the sun, and they all walked over to the big tree and got in the cool shade.

Some of them lay down and some of them stood still, and they switched their tails about to keep the flies off, and they chewed their cuds. For a cow has two kinds of stomach. When she bites off the grass, she swallows it down quickly, and it goes into the first stomach; and after awhile, when she has eaten all the grass she wants, she goes and lies down, or stands still and some of the grass comes back into her mouth in a bunch and she chews it all up fine and swallows it again, so that it goes down into her real stomach. Then another bunch comes up and she chews that and swallows it, and so she does until all the grass is chewed up fine. That is what they call chewing the cud.

So the cows stayed in the shade of the big tree until they were hungry again, and then they walked about and ate some more of the grass and drank some more water out of the little stream. And by that time it was in the afternoon and almost time for little John to come to drive them home.

So they all stood looking at the gate and waiting for little John. And by and by little John came running along, and he let down the bars at one end, and he called "Co-o-ow! Co-o-ow!" and the cows all started hurrying along to the gate. And they stepped over the bars carefully, the leader first, and walked along the road, for they knew the way to go. And little John came running after.

When the cows came to the farm-house, they turned in at the gate and went up the little track to the cow-yard. And they went in at the gate of the cow-yard, and up the sloping place into the barn. And each cow knew where she ought to go, and she went there, and Uncle John fastened the chains around their necks; and little John shut the gate of the cow-yard and went into the house.

Then Uncle John put a measureful of meal in the manger in front of each cow, and he got his milking-stool and the milk pails and he milked all the cows. And while the cows were being milked, they ate the meal and chewed their cuds.

When the cows were all milked, Uncle John poured the milk through the strainer into the big cans and took it out to the spring-house to set it, so that the cream would come on it. But some of the milk he took into the house for their supper.

Then he shut the big doors of the barn and fastened them, and the cows lay down and went to sleep.

And that's all.