Holy Cow! by Bonnie Schroeder

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Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the Fifth Grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and has authored novels, short stories and screenplays, as well as non-fiction articles and a newsletter for an American Red Cross chapter

 

I’m wrapping up our series of pet-centric posts today and hope everyone has enjoyed reading about the animals in our lives. . . and our writing.

I’ve had pets almost all my life, mostly dogs and cats, but few have had starring roles in my fiction.

My very first “published” short story, however, featured a cow as a main character, and not just any cow. My pet cow.

Here’s how it happened:

As a child, I spent my summers on my grandparents’ farm in northern New Mexico. It was a kid’s paradise, with all sorts of animal life: dogs and cats and chickens and pigs and cows. Being semi-obsessed by Western movies that were all the rage back then (mid-20th-century, that is), I often lamented that there were no horses on the farm.

The reason? Simple economics. My grandparents were not wealthy, and a tractor can do the work of many horses, without the attendant feed bills. My grandfather tired of my yearning for a horse, and he offered me what was, in his opinion, the next-best substitute: a docile milk cow named Brindy.

Brindy and I became fast friends during my summer visits. When I arrived, I’d race out to the pasture, climb over the fence and call to her, and she always came to say hello. I’d tell her how my time in California had gone, share a few confidences, rub her forehead and give her a carrot. When she was lying down, I’d often climb on her bony back and stroke her bristly hide. She was always gentle with me and seemed to enjoy the attention.Brindy

My favorite thing, though, was to help with the milking! You need VERY strong fingers to milk a cow, and I wasn’t always successful, but I kept trying. Milk straight from the cow, by the way, is nothing like the stuff you buy at the supermarket. It’s warm and thick and has a distinct, earthy taste.

How did Brindy come to star in my short story? As the product of a “broken marriage”—which was not taken so casually then as now—I was something of an outsider in school; friends did not come easily. But in the 5th grade, I discovered—or rather my teacher discovered—that I had a knack for creative writing. I suppose it came from all the time I spent alone with my books, coupled with a wild imagination. My teacher gave the class an assignment to write a story about an animal, and without my even having to think too hard about it, a story emerged about a cow that wanted to be a horse. The cow in my story, of course, was named Brindy, and although she tried hard to act like a horse, she eventually came to realize horses didn’t have it all that easy: people riding on their backs, hauling heavy wagons, and so on. Brindy decided she was pretty darn happy being a cow.

The ”be yourself” message must have impressed my teacher, because she typed up the story, shared it with the class, and sent a note to my mother that my writing “talent” should be encouraged—which, of course, it was.

That summer when I went to visit Brindy, very full of myself for all the attention my story had received and the friends it had won me, my grandfather cautioned me that Brindy had given birth while I was away. Eager to see the new calf, I hurried to the pasture and climbed the fence. Sure enough, there was Brindy with the cutest little baby standing next to her. I called out to her and ran forward. At this point, Brindy lowered her head, bellowed, and charged. I was threatening her baby.

I turned and fled and barely made it to the fence without being trampled. When I told my grandfather what happened, he shook his head. “I warned you. She’s mighty protective of that calf.”

And so it was that I lost my friend on the farm. Brindy became a mom and had no more interest in me. It made me sad, but then my grandfather brought home a puppy, and when he presented it to me, my disappointment over Brindy melted away. We named the puppy Buck, and he lived a long and happy life, watching over me and protecting me from the many hazards a child encounters on a farm. I decided a dog was a more suitable pet than a cow, after all.

Brindy had abandoned me, true enough, but she was my first muse, and I have always been grateful to her for that. In return, I gave her a kind of immortality, at least on the written page. If cows have emotions—and I think they do—she’d be proud.

10 thoughts on “Holy Cow! by Bonnie Schroeder”

  1. Bonnie, I love your Brindy story, and the picture of you and Brindy is “priceless!” It’s just amazing to me how important our dear animal friends are to our lives–I knew it was the case for me–but hearing the myriad ways they have effected my writing-friends, is music to my ears–and heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mad. Isn’t it interesting that all our fellow bloggers are animal people as well as writers. The two must be connected.

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  2. What a wonderful memory you’ve captured, Bonnie; one that has ‘literally’ changed your life. But animals we grow to love, like dear friends and family, have that capacity. We should all be grateful for Brindy for inspiring you to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Miko. When I first started my “pet themed” post, I was going to write about one of my dogs, but there were so many I couldn’t choose. . . and then like magic, Brindy just popped into my head. Brought back many good
      memories.

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  3. When I told Richard your story, he laughed. As a good old Texas boy he knows you never come between a momma and her baby. I’m a city girl, but I’ll remember this one. Fun story, Bonnie. Pets do come in all sizes.

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    1. Do I get the prize for the biggest one in our pet-post series? I think so. . . And yes, stay away from protective mammas, especially when they’re bigger than you.

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  4. Loved the story Bonnie. I didn’t connect with Brindy but I did try to ride other live stock with the help of my male role models. I especially loved. He was a fine dog to say the least. Do you remember the time when Buck caught a big bull snake for us? Lots of animal stories on that farm.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, the farm was our Disneyland equivalent, Little Brother. Buck saved us from a lot of disasters, including snakes. He got us out of the irrigation ditch before it filled with water, too. He was a good friend.

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