Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sarah's Bovine Encounter

After posting about several serious topics – school, politics, a death in the family – here's a short post on a lighter subject: Sarah's encounter with a cow! It happened in the Fall of 1896. As described in "Schoolhouse Revolution of 1896-1897," Sarah's school, a private school called Carrollton Seminary (a.k.a. "Mr. English's school") permitted people to board their cows in the schoolyard. This was a win-win situation for the owners of the cows and for the school, which used the bovine boarding fees to pay school expenses. Another bonus: the grazing cows kept the grass under control.

Maymie Bond (who married Pierce Winslow) lived in the little brick house across from the school, and Jenne [Howe, Sarah's cousin] and I used to go over sometimes from school during the rather long recess period we were given (generally 15 or 20 minutes). It was just before her first child was born, I remember.

Another recess time memory I have is the time we were playing in the yard and one of the grazing cows suddenly started after me. I remember her getting up and I looked over at her and laughed and said “Why Cow-ie, did we disturb your rest?” and [name unreadable] said “She looks like she is going to disturb your rest!” And with that she put her head down and ran at me. I ran and fell down and she went on past me and started eating again, but it was at least 25 years after that before I could pass a cow without feeling the fright of that occasion. Several of the boys who had seen the accident but sensed my fear of the cow in the yard after that were so nice, for tho I never could bring myself to ask for help, several of the boys at different times walked past me and chased the cows away from the gate as I went out and then went on, as if nothing had occurred

Wikipedia [public domain]; Original source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 

As I read Sarah's account of her encounter with the cow, I had these thoughts:
  1. Would today's school boards permit cattle grazing on school grounds? Imagine the health and safety issues! While the introduction of cattle to city school campuses might be educational, I'm confident we'll continue to have students who have never seen a cow.
  2. I'm intrigued that Sarah would not ask for help, in spite of her fear. The more I read her scrapbooks, the more I'm convinced that she was one strong little girl, and she became an even stronger woman.
  3. I applaud the boys who spontaneously protected her. They did not tease her about the encounter. They did not brag about being her champion. They simply cleared the way for her. What compassion! What chivalry! True, these boys grew up in the Victorian era, when manners were revered and males were expected to protect females. Still, I'm charmed by their sensitivity to Sarah's feelings and their willingness to help without direction to do so and without seeking recognition. Would today's middle- and high-school boys do the same?
Here's a follow-up on the relationship between Sarah and cows. As my husband recalls, in the early 1950s his grandmother Sarah was visiting the farm on which her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson lived. A young cow was tethered to a fence with a chain to receive some sort of  medical treatment. The cow had already demonstrated a dislike for the visitor, and it didn't help matters when Sarah tripped on the chain and fell, frightening the cow. Sarah's daughter  Mary Alice Salyers Hays saved the day by distracting the cow with a broom. Apparently, Sarah and cows were not meant to be friends.

Same Year, Different Event

One of the challenges of posting about Sarah's scrapbooks is that she wrote about life events as they came to her memory, sometimes years after those events occurred. When she came across a box of her grandparents' letters, for example, she pasted them into the scrapbook she was working on at the time. When she saw an amusing image in a magazine, she pasted it on a page and wrote notes about the memories those images stirred.

Here is such a page. Although it shows a telephone of the 1890s, the image appears to be clipped from a magazine (possibly the Ladies' Home Journal) published in the 1940s. It prompted Sarah to recall the Howe family's first phone installed circa 1897 – about the time of her schoolyard encounter with the cow. I've included the entire page, because it includes several nuggets: her memory of that first telephone, a note about a dress her little sister wore, and a "Fifty Years Ago" column that helps assign a date to the entire page. Sarah was not good about including dates in her scrapbooks, so anything that helps determine a time frame for clippings and information is a goldmine! 

Transcriptions (because it takes practice to read Sarah's handwriting):
Left side: "Leonora had a dress a lot like this."
Center (referring to her parents' home when Sarah was in her mid-teens): "Our first phone was put in about 1897 I believe tho maybe later, but we didn't have electric light till after I married." (Sarah married William Levi Salyers in 1905.)

No comments: