Twenty-five and One-half Cows

Mar 13, 2011 | 4 comments

Cow in Churchyard

       As I glanced out of our dining-room windows the other day, I was amused to see two of Bud’s cows contentedly munching away in the churchyard across the street.  It made me wonder for a nano-second whether they were descended from the cows that used to live right on that very spot, for it was there that my grandfather had one of his barns.
     In those days, a hundred years back in time, Oysterville was not as ‘gentrified’ as it is now.  There were vegetable gardens where these days there are formal flower gardens and most people had a horse or two and a cow or two, to say nothing of chickens and pigs.  My grandfather, as a dairy farmer, had a whole herd of cows and, as the father of seven children, had numbers of horses – “sixteen at the maximum” my Uncle Edwin once told me.  That made one for every household member, two for my grandmother’s buggy, and quite a number of ‘work horses’ for the farm.  The dairy herd consisted of about fifty cattle, chiefly milk cows, but some beef cattle.
     My grandfather worked like a Trojan, though he always had hired help and the able of assistance of his son Edwin.  Willard, the only other boy, being a bookish type, did as little farm work as possible.  To his credit, my grandfather did not insist, feeling – and rightly so, as it turned out – that Willard was destined for far different things.  From the time they were little boys, it was that Edwin who predicted that “Willard would grow up to be a minister because he was so lazy.”  The irony, of course, was that Edwin got the PhD in Theology from Columbia and eventually became General Secretary of the National Council of Churches—the “Protestant Pope” he was called.
     One of my favorite stories about Edwin involved his counting cows.  He was probably five or six years old, already reading and good with numbers.  Papa needed to know how many cows were in the lower meadow and sent Edwin to count.  He came back to report that there were “twenty-five and a half cows.”
     “How can there be half a cow?” Papa asked.
     “Well,” said the literal young Edwin, “one was partly hidden behind a bush, so I could only see half of her.”


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    What a cute story, Sydney, and I did not know that Edwin was General Secretary of the National Coucil of Churches. The Espys certainly have always valued learning and public service!

  2. Jan Bono

    I, too, have stories of how my grandfather counted cows… your blog made me smile in remembrance this morning.

    • sydney

      Well, I suppose if you substituted ‘dog’ for ‘cow’ the answer would be obvious. In the case of the cow, same answer and probably the same disgusted “someone else.”


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *