“What’s her name?” my city friend asked, as we drove by a black cow while giving him a tour of the farm.
“Who’s name?” I retorted, thinking I had missed seeing some woman in the pasture.
“That cow we just drove past, don’t you farmers have all your cows named things like Bossie or Elsie?”
When I tried to explain to my urban friend that most of us don’t name our cows anymore, he had a hard time understanding why I didn’t carry on the traditions of my forefathers. “That’s what makes you guys so special,” he stated, “and why we city folk can keep from thinking of you as some corporate, non-feeling, greedy profiteers.” His comments started me both thinking and remembering.
As a youngster, I doubt that dad ever owned more than 30 to 40 cows at any one time and, yes, each one had a name. Back then, of course, the cowherd was very diverse in color, so they were much easier to tell apart. It’s amazing how many of their names I can remember 50 years later. I can remember Beauty because she was the Jersey milk cow that we milked by hand until I left for college. Snowball was a little, roan Shorthorn-cross that could wean her own weight in calf every year. Sweetheart was a much bigger roan that didn’t milk nearly as well and raised a much lighter-weight calf than her sister. I learned a lot about producing beef from those two old cows.
Then, there was the Blackie cow family; Old Blackie was one of the original cows dad brought with him when we moved to Missouri from Arkansas. Half Angus and half Jersey, that old cow would raise her own calf and three more that my dad would allow to suckle twice daily. Big Blackie was her daughter, Little Blackie her granddaughter and just plain Blackie her great-granddaughter. There were more cow names I remembered, like Annabelle, Buttercup, Princess and Toots, but I returned to the conversation with my friend.
I tried, once more, to explain that the size of my herd alone would make it very difficult for me to name each one and remember a particular cow’s name with any accuracy. Added to that fact, about 90 percent of my cowherd is solid black in color, making it essential to have numbered ear tags. But, to appease the city boy, I stated, “Come to think of it, I do have a few cows that I refer to by name.”
“Really?” he exclaimed.
“Yep, that old black baldy over there will try to kill you if you step out of the truck. I call her Crazy-eyed &@#$%. And that one-horned cow will run over you every time you get her in the corral. I call her Stupid &@#$%.”
“Oh, I get it. You just have names for the mean ones. What would you name this gentle black one licking on your truck?”
Looking over my shoulder to identify which one he was talking about, I answered, “Oh, that one would be Blackie #7008.”
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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