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Old Brindle (standard:non fiction, 1578 words)
Author: Nathaniel MIllerAdded: Sep 05 2014Views/Reads: 992/602Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A story of the rescue of Old Brindle the family cow during an ice storm in Depression Era Missouri, circa 1936
 



The Rescue of Old Brindle: Memoirs of Marjorie P. Martz By Nathaniel A.
Miller and M.P. Martz 

Old Brindle, lone provider of the family milk supply, should have been
in the barn that night for a light snow had already covered the ground. 
 However, it had been a drought year and feed was scarce, so Mom left 
her out to graze in a field of cornstalks at the bottom of a long hill. 
The straggly stalks were practical, if less than palatable, feed and 
the cow nibbled happily upon them finding nourishment. That night, as 
Brindle grazed in the fields, a slow freezing rain began and morning 
found the unfortunate cow on a cornstalk reef in a sea of glassy ice. 
Port, in the shape of the barn, was at the top of the hill. 

It was Saturday. Mom enjoyed the leisurely breakfast with us children
before briefing us on our duties to be accomplished by the time she 
returned. She buttoned a heavy denim jacket snuggly around her near two 
hundred pounds without bothering to remove the coverall apron she 
always wore over her housedress. A scarf tied over her head, big cotton 
work gloves, and overshoes prepared her for her chilly outside work. 
Mom loved the outdoors in any weather and she was the tough mid-western 
farm type who asked for help from no one, doing the house chores only 
when there was no one else to do them. We thought little of her staying 
out for hours. 

Milk bucket in hand, Mom inched her way up, over, and down the hill. Ice
storms may delight a photographer, but this frosty beauty is lost on 
the farmer whose problems are multiplied many by them. It was, indeed, 
lost on Mom as she slipped and slid down the hill toward the cow. Her 
gloves clung to the ice coated wire as she opened the gate and at this 
time, Brindle usually came to meet her. Using the leaning corn-stalks 
as stepping stones, Mom made her way out into the field calling, 

“Here, Brindle, Soo-oo-ook, Bossy.” As she went Hoarfrost covered,
Brindle's shaggy winter coat and it gave her a parka-clad appearance. 
Her big brown eyes appealed for Mom to do something, but she did not 
budge form the spot. 

About an eighth of a mile of barbed-wire fence led up the hill from the
gate straight to the barn. Mom put her milk pail over her arm so she 
could work her way hand over hand along the fence. This helped her 
conquer the first steeper third of the hill. The rest was easier as she 
needed only to be careful. At the barn, she exchanged the old milk pail 
for an old battered one that she filled with ‘nubbin' ears of corn, a 
tasty treat reserved for Brindle at milking time. A hand axe was 
thoughtfully tucked under the other arm. Cautiously Mom made her way 
back to the steep part where she set down the bucket of corn and 
reversed the climbing process to the bottom. 

With the axe, she began the slow work of cutting steps in the ice. An
hour of this labor got her up the steep and again at the bucket of 
nubbins for which she now exchanged the axe. Planting the big overshoes 
firmly in each step of the new stairway, Mom was soon backing at Old 
Brindle. She held out an inviting yellow nubbin. Old Brindle rolled her 
eyes and stretched her neck. Even by sticking out her long gray tongue, 
she could not quite reach the tantalizing morsel. However, Mom's 
cajoling words and tantalizing motions with the tidbit were more than 
the hungry cow could resist. She took the first hesitating step and the 
next was easier. Keeping just out of reach, Mom trolled her to the 
steps and began the slow ascent. Patiently, she encouraged the shaky 
cow with endearments and promise of feed until the last step and the 
steep part of the hill were surmounted. 

The worst was over. Mom breathed a bit easier now. Then she spied the
axe where she had left it after cutting the steps. Best to take it 
along; it might be needed again on a day like this. Both hands must be 
free for the trolling of Brindle, so she put it under her arm. Brindle 
was impatient for the promised breakfast and sensing an unguarded 
second, she made a lunge for the corn. Fearful of losing her bait, Mom 
jerked the bucket away. The sudden movement was a bad mistake. She 
realized it in the split second, but it was a great deal longer before 
the full results settled to a complete stop. The nubbins lay scattered 
nearest to the scene of the fatal jerk. The old bucket had finished its 
erratic course halfway down against the fence. The axe angled off in 
another direction; the added momentum Mom gave it as she fell had 
propelled it all the way to the bottom of the hill. Mom came to a step 


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