Have you noticed? It’s Cow Season!

Black Angus Cattle

In the Merry, Merry Month of May we talk about the flowers that spring forth and the sunshiny weather (sometimes) and about a whole host of other things but I seldom see talk of cows!  Yes!  Cows!

Have you noticed that they are “out” — right along with the cherry blossoms and the goldenrod and all the other signs of Spring.  They are in the Shier Meadow on Sandridge Road.  They are in Goulter’s Field along the 101 cutoff.  And they are probably lots of other places, as well.


Cows!  Mostly Black Angus (I think.)  In any case, they are black, they are cows, and they remind me of my grandfather’s dairy farm, although, truth to tell, his farm was no more by the time I came along.  But it was the way of life when my mother and her siblings were growing up and sometimes I feel like I was there right along with them.

This is how my uncle Edwin Espy (1908- 1993) described Papa’s ranch:
In terms of the property involved, the ranch consisted or several interrelated elements that were scattered over about six hundred acres in an unconventional configuration. There were other properties of a different kind, chiefly marshland and a wooded hillside to the south that overlooked the bay. The land as a whole was principally of three types:
• The bay-front property, mostly meadow with some smaller wooded areas
• The “town” property, for nearby grazing, for two of the barns and for a garden
• The marsh, an extensive area of swamp and other low ground, heavily wooded or otherwise overgrown with shrubbery but providing succulent grazing for the cattle.
The buildings:
• Barns: Number 1 (the Big Barn) a half mile away; Number 2, the larger of two in town, and Number 3, right across the street from our dwelling
• An abandoned store building, used for a milk-separator operated by hand (the cream was sent to Astoria, most of the skimmed milk was for the calves and pigs; the family had whole milk and a minimum of cream)
• The Ranch House across from Barn Number 1 where, periodically Papa housed a ranch foreman
• The home itself, the repository of farm clothing, some of the tools and the milk pails, et cetera, which were washed in the kitchen
The animals;
• About fifty cattle, chiefly milk cows, but some beef stock cattle
• Sixteen horses at the maximum
• Pigs
• Chickens
• Dogs
• (Periodically a goat for the children)

Espy Ranch Foreman’s House

Apparently, the ranch was doing well enough by the time Papa entered the political arena in 1910 that he felt comfortable in signing on as a “silent partner” in the Johnson and Henry Store in Nahcotta. When the business failed a few years later and the principal owners walked away from their indebtedness, Papa felt a moral obligation to pay off the creditors. Even though it took him the next twenty years, he made good on every debt. No one in the family, save Mama, knew the cause or the extent of their privation.

I don’t know what sorts of cows Papa had — probably not Angus.  Maybe Holstein.  No matter.  A cow is a cow is a cow.  And they seem to come out in May!

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