Pondering the mysteries of life has been done since the invention of the human being, and will be done long after you and I have been put out to pasture.
But as we do this, I think there is a lot we can learn from your average cow.
Robert Fulgham began our life advice with his “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” If cows were able to dictate their version, it might go something like this.
- “Come into the world with a bang.” If you’ve ever helped a calf be born, you know what it is to do that job while the mother is standing up – acting like what’s going on behind her is all in a day’s work.
Her calf comes plopping to the ground, shakes his/her head, looks around, and starts the adventure of life. Step into your world, make yourself known to those around you, and leave your mark on the world.
- “Stand on your feet as soon as you can and look around.” It’s amazing to see animals born. They come into the world much like we do, and are standing on their own four feet within minutes of their birth, wondering at the new world around them. Christopher Columbus was surely no less amazed at what he saw than a newborn calf is. Stand up in this world as soon as you can, carry your share of the load, and always be aware of what’s around you. You never know where that cow path is going to lead you.
- “Beller until someone gives you what you need.” You always know when something’s up with the cows. When they’re hungry, you know it. When they don’t like what’s happening, you know it. When weaning time comes, you know it. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – while tempering that with the notion that sometimes the squeaky wheel gets removed, also.
- “Be suspicious of strangers.” Watching the cows out in the yard is an interesting and peaceful thing. You can stand there and talk to them (hoping that your neighbor hasn’t driven in quietly and brought a video camera to show the white jacket people) and they just stand there, quietly looking at you. Our mothers were right – never talk to strangers. The still waters they lead you beside could be dangerous.
- “Chew on things awhile first.” With four stomachs, cows have a lot to do just eating. It gives me reason to believe that, since it takes so much time for cows to actually consume and process their food, it should take us some time to consume and process the things that we need to think about, too. Cows savor the eating process; we should never rush through thinking about important things, either.
- “Use your tail to swat the annoying things away.” When flies and insects annoy the cow, she keeps that tail close by to use as a weapon of sorts, defending herself against those who would cross her line of patience.
Though many a farm wife has wished that she had a tail (thinking it would get her more attention from her farmer husband), we need to learn to rid ourselves of those people and things who bring us down. Swat them away somehow and move on.
- “Stay with the herd.” Cows know it; we should, too. There is strength in numbers. If one gets out, soon the whole herd will be out. They hunker together, always sticking together no matter what. Wouldn’t it be a great world if we all carried even this one piece of advice with us?
- “Shout loudly if you become separated from your babies.” Weaning time; enough said. This goes without saying, but it’s true no matter if this happens accidentally, or when your babies move away to college. Always let your babies know where you are and that you are here for them, and always, always know where they are.
- “Adapt to your environment.” Cows don’t care where they are living as long as they have food, water and shelter. We can all take a lesson from that humble attitude of gratitude. It doesn’t matter where you are. Home is wherever (and whatever) you make it.
- “Keep your backside to the winds of life.” When the world turns colder as fall turns to winter, cows know to stand with their backsides to the wind, and to stand together to stay warm. So when your world turns cold in every other sense, turn your back to it so it doesn’t snuff out the flame from your spirit; keep on walking, and stick with those whom you know will be there with you always.
A handful of years ago, our boys’ two young calves got out of their pen at home, and wandered into the corn field next to our farm. My husband chased them for a time and ran out of patience.
He came to get me to help, and it was obvious to me that once they tasted life outside of a pen, they didn’t want to go back.
I tried a different approach by standing before them both and gently calling them by name to follow me.
Unbelievably, they did, and were actually led back into the pen, instead of being chased.
The cows’ last piece of advice is “Always follow the One who leads you.”
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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