I grew up on a small farm in the Appalachian foothills. As the leaves changed to brilliant shades of red and orange and the days changed to crisp and cool, the farm also changed. The hay in the field had been cut, baled and put in the barn for the long winter. The tobacco was curing in the rafters making the whole barn smell of its sweet pungent scent. Daddy and PaPaw would put the electric fence around the field. It was time to bring the cows home.
The cows spent the summer at my Great Grandparents in a pasture further up the mountains. There was plenty of grass for them to eat there and we needed the time to work the garden, the tobacco and the hay without worrying about the cows. But once the crops petered out and the hay was up, it was time to bring them home. Daddy would take the old red truck up the mountain and bring them home a couple at a time. We didn’t have many, just 5 cows and sometimes a bull. There was Ol’ Red, Fanny, Bessie, my brother’s cow, Ginger and my cow, Blackie. They would saunter off the truck and go right back to grazing as though they’d never left.
Our house was surrounded by the field so we saw the cows all the time. I would wake in the mornings and look out my window to find Blackie. Cows are very calm creatures, walking around slowly, eating constantly taking the occasional break to scratch their back on a tree. They are also creatures of habit. They knew when the sun started to set low and Daddy or PaPaw headed to the barn, it was feeding time.
I liked to go with them to feed the cows but I had to stay out of sight so they wouldn’t spook as they came into the barn. Daddy let me put the sweet feed in the trough for them then I would rub their noses while they ate. Daddy climbed into the hayloft and dropped hay down for them. We’d tell them all goodnight and head back to the house just before dark for a hot supper of our own.
The time eventually came when Daddy and PaPaw weren’t able to care for the cows and we had to sell them all. It was hard for everyone. I miss them. Still to this day, a cow pasture or barn will send my thoughts rushing back home.