Hey it’s Terrific Tuesday again. I had an after Thanksgiving sabbatical last week. I am baaaack!
So what’s up in your neck of the woods? I am being extremely slow in putting up Christmas decorations this year. Maybe it is the warm weather, maybe it is just me. I am going to blame it on all of those election commercials on TV.
I think for the next couple of weeks I am going to tell “Friendly Beast” stories in honor of the Christmas Nativity Scene. Legend has it the animals talked to the Baby Jesus in the manger. Southern lore also says if you go into the barn on Christmas Eve at the stroke of midnight, the animals will speak again of that wondrous night in Bethlehem.
My first story is “Brin the Cow.” I am going to let this cow story roam where it leads me.
Brin came to our farm as one of the first acquisitions back when my family moved to Fincastle back in the 60s. My father had an Animal Science degree from Va. Tech, had farmed some in Roanoke County as a youngster and was a decedent of farmers in Maryland, Bedford and Amherst Counties. He bought a farm near Fincastle and we left the city. He named it “Cedar View.”
Our farm animal lot began with a couple of purchased Angus calves, Brin the cow, a pony named Misty, two leghorn chickens and two turkeys. Brin was half brown Swiss Dairy cow and half beef cow–not in that order, she was combined. She was a brindle color and therefore that is how she received her name. We named all of our animals. Even the ones we ate. She was a sweet old gal. Never gave us a bit of trouble. Her most unique feature is that she could be ridden bare back. My brother climbed aboard on many occasions. Honestly she was a better ride than the pony. It had a bitter disposition.
Brin gave us a part Charolais bull calf named, “Clyde. He was the charming boy of the barn lot. He looked very Charolais, so daddy left him a bull.
Here’s a little known fact over my teenage years, I had a secret profession I practiced on our farm and on my Dad’s friend’s farm. I was nimble and quick and had dexterous fingers. Once early on in my college courtship with the late Bobby Benson, my dad’s friend Mac McCallister, the other farmer, told him my secret, ” I think you need to know that Cathy has lots of experience turning bulls into steers.” I was embarrassed beyond belief. It was not something I listed on my college resume. It wasn’t one of the things I wanted him to know either or the fact I had been butted into cow pies by Momma cows when their little boys bellowed in the process. Mac told him that, too.
Bobby loved me nonetheless and when we moved to Texas years later after we married, it was one of those things he would pop out to our new friends and co workers. “Cathy knows how to turn a bull into a steer.” It was so “Texas,” they embraced me for it. I was a semi celebrity among the girls. “So how did you do it???” was an oft asked question. I will not tell here, either!
Who would guess that Brin the cow story would wander in that direction? She lived the good life on the farm, but Dad being an old school farmer shipped her off the first year she didn’t calve. The law of the farm is similar to the law of the jungle, “Eat or be eaten, have a calf or be eaten.”
What does that all have to do the Christmas Nativity Scene? Mine has a brown cow in it in honor of Brin the cow. I painted the nativity in Eagle Rock in 1986 when I was expecting my first child and my mother lay dying from cancer. It was a bittersweet time for me. Not unlike the world surrounding me today.
From the song, “The Friendly Beasts,” based on a Latin Christmas Carol sung in France from the 1200′s AD on.:
“I,” said the cow all white and red
“I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.”
“I,” said the cow all white and red.”
See you next week!