Evelyn Richardson

What's in a name? That lead could take us in many directions, but I'm going to zero in on cows.

Recently I was going through drawers and found a couple of small pocket notebooks with entries made by my father. Pages had lists of circa 1940 farm expenses--fertilizer, clover and oats seed, salt, trucking charges, machinery parts, Paris green (poison for tobacco worms), mule collar, plow point, nails, stovepipe, taxes ...

However, most of the entries were dates on which each of the cows had calved.

Our cows were not identified by the number on a tag in the ear but by a bona fide name. We collaborated when naming them, but most of the time the final decision was left up to me, and I took it seriously. I tried to use descriptive names that reflected their personality or reputation, as well as to describe the way they looked -- features that set them apart in the herd. Following are some examples:

Annie Rooney--Something about her must have reminded me of the popular "Little Annie Rooney" of the day.

Orphan Annie--Same as above.

Daffy--She must have had habits somewhat uncommon for the run-of-the-mill cow.

Buttercup--No doubt she had a pretty yellow coat.

Daisy and Lily--Simply must have sounded nice for nice cows.

Sharp Horn--Her head feature could not be overlooked.

Short Horn--She was not as naturally endowed as the others.

Boy Blue--Although she was a girl, I probably drew this name from the children's song "Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn, the sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn."

Old Heifer--Either she was older than the majority, or she deserved the derogatory term -- I don't remember which.

Dandy--I can picture her as spry with a winning appearance.

Goat--I have no explanation.

Cripp--Falling into a gully or sinkhole left her with a lasting limp, and Cripp sounded much kinder than Crippled.

Tops--Her reputation as a good milk producer provided us with her name.

Inky--Substitute for Blackie that had already been assigned.

Spot and White Face were not very original names, but they were easy to match with the respective cows.

Names apparently meant nothing to the cows themselves because they all came to the barn when we shouted "Sook, Sook!" And none paid attention when we said "Saw!" as a command to keep their hind feet still as we milked.

Nevertheless, the names gave us a handle to use along with other words when we were huddled against a panting flank on a steamy late summer afternoon and she kicked over the milk bucket, or she refused to go in the stall--as well as to date the birth of each offspring, the main purpose.