By Garnette Arledge
At the Andes Public Library June party I had the privilege of a local history lesson about some visible although non-verbal members of our community. Thanks to two of the remaining six dairy farmers in Andes, out of so many more two decades ago, I heard several hilarious stories of men and cows, women and cows, and unfortunately the saga of the state of milking today.
Then came the Fourth of July weekend and my houseguest from France and I had a cow adventure. She wanted to ride around and look at the mountains, streams and cows. She had grown up in Normandy between World Wars I and II. She remembered when the dairy farms in her county were flourishing, then came the invasion. She told me that as a little girl she passed fields with cows shrieking with pain. The men were out with weapons and even haying tools trying to resist the Germans. The horrible plight of the cows as the Nazis planes were bombing the French resistance during the push to capture Paris, seeing the women and children dead on the side of the road, hearing the sound of the cows abandoned in the fields, their udders so painful, is still vivid to her even at age 85.
Yet, as we drove, she became so delighted to see Andes farms still working, very sad about the others. Sunday, as we drove County Route One along the Tremperskill, towards Perch Lake, all of a sudden there in the road were cows crossing. Denise was so thrilled. A grandmother, like us, was standing in the road, stopping traffic as huge, mostly calm, cows plodded out of their barn into their pasture.
Except one! Denise said, “That’s an old one, see how her udder hangs.” I thought, she’s huge, glad I’m safe in the car.
All of sudden, instead of following the other girls, the big white one took a detour and started munching the bright green grass at the verge on the other side of the fence. The farmer was carrying a big stick and he wanted her to go nicely into the pasture. We were delighted at the drama. But old Bossy, although we were not introduced, would not obey. She scampered away. To grab more, as it is really true about the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. He yelled at her. She scampered further away. Over and over, she avoided him to nick another mouthful. All of a sudden a man on a quad dashed up from seemingly nowhere and herded the reluctant one into the long line and safety.
We were so pleased with the bit of drama; it was a real treat for both of us. Later at church, delightedly I told an expert about our adventure. He did not laugh. He is a dairy farmer himself. I thought it was so great. After a meaningful church service, the dairyman called me to the back of the church.
“You afraid of cows?”
Well, being a strong, independent woman, who had the sense to move to Andes, I did not want to admit it. In fact, I didn’t think I was. But, wait, he was actually right.
“Yes,” I confessed in the church.
Cows graze behind my bookshop. Although another dairyman has given me permission to walk there, I do not do it. I realized I did not feel comfortable alone on a mountain with a herd of placidly grazing giants. “Yes,” was the only truthful reply. A woman in church had told me that if you pet a cow on the head, she might lick you. “Yucky,” as my granddaughter would say.
“All right, you have no reason to be afraid of them. I’ve handled thousands of cows and calves in my life and the only time you have to be cautious is when the mother has her new calf with her.”
I’m not convinced. He could tell that.
“Just carry a stick.”
I looked down.
“Unless of course there’s bull, but you don’t have to worry about that.”
He had his fun. So did I. I had another cow adventure, it was a lesson in dry humor. ~