We had a barn. It was the most wonderful place to explore when I was a little girl. It had a sound and a smell all its own. It was where I spent a lot of time climbing on bales of hay and playing with the kittens that lived there. We had a small section fenced off inside for chickens and we had a cow names Bossie. On the outside of the barn was a small corral where Bossie would spend her days. I remember sitting in the shade by the corral fence having tea with my dolls watching Bossie. To me she was a fascinating creature.
Bossie was a
Jersey cow. She gave us rich wonderful milk we used for whipping cream, drinking milk, butter, and buttermilk. She had the most perfect huge brown eyes with eyelashes that curled back up and touched her forehead. She stood by the hour lazily chewing her cud. I remember the long strands of slobber hanging off her mouth and dripping to the ground. It sounds gross now but at the time it was just part of Bossie. It was just a “farm thing.”
Dad was always singing when he came in from the field. Bossie would hear him and no matter what she was doing or where she was she would immediately walk to the same spot along the front of the fence where she would greet my dad. Dad would always have a fist full of long sweet grasses he had collected for her on his way in from work. He’d stand feeding Bossy a few strands of grass at a time, all the while talking to her as if she were one of his friends.
It was a special treat when we had watermelon to give the rinds to Bossie. She would slurp and crunch and make the most hilarious sounds. She absolutely loved watermelon!
I learned a hard fact of life one day when I got off the bus after school. I noticed a strange looking truck parked out by the barn. My dad and a fellow in a white apron were standing by the fence talking. There was an odd shaped object hanging from the hook at the edge of the barn roof. With a sharp pain to my head and heart I recognized that shape. It was our beloved Bossie hanging there and the stranger was the butcher!
I was horrified. Mom called me from the house but my feet kept walking towards dad. He met me, took my hand, and we walked the last few steps together to see what I dreaded seeing. My heart was broken. I held on to dad’s hand with all my might and kicked at the dirt.
I remember asking why we had to kill Bossie. I don’t remember all of his answer but dad said she had been on our farm to provide for us. First it was with her milk and all the different ways we could use it and now that she was getting older and not producing much milk any more it would be with her meat. I thought it was all just horrible.
I remember asking dad why we all spent time with her like a pet and why he sang to her and fed her watermelon if he knew someday he would have her killed. Dad told me that he didn’t like killing her and he’d miss singing to her. He said all the things we did for her and the time we spent with her made her life as a cow absolutely as good as it could be. He said any cow would be jealous of Bossie’s life with us.
Dad said he’d had the butcher hide the gun and promised me he was talking to her when the bullet hit. As he talked he held me close to his chest, I knew immediately it was so I couldn’t see the tears rolling down his cheeks. Dad was sad about Bossie too! Somehow seeing dad cry made me feel better. And of course, there was the promise of a new calf in the coming spring.