Bree, the 8-year-old daughter of my niece Nicole, was riding shotgun with me one day in Tink’s pick-up truck.
We were in foothills of the mountains headed to a Sunday afternoon baptizing in the Chattahoochee River.
I turned the truck onto a road that runs through a gorgeous, large farm. In the pasture on the right hand side were a couple hundred head of cattle (in the country, we don’t use an ‘s’ on head when talking about cows. And some of our folks still say things like, ‘He was 40-year-old when he died.’ Such language is music to my ears).
Two cars were pulled over to the side of the road and five or six people were stirring around, taking pictures of these black and white cattle grazing on the lush green grass. I did not look at their car tags for a location. I knew where they came from.
“Oh my goodness,” I muttered. “City slickers.”
Bree’s little head covered with tousled blonde curls whipped around. Her blue eyes widened. “City slickers? What’s that?”
“People who pull over on the side of the road to take pictures of cows.”
She looked out the window and studied on what I had said. She turned back to me and said, “Granddaddy takes pictures of his cows. Is he a city slicker?”
My brother-in-law, Rodney, is as far away from being a city slicker as the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta are from the cornfields of the Appalachian Mountains. But he does take pictures of his cows. In fact, that’s the only thing he takes pictures of on his cell phone – cows. If you asked to see his camera roll, you’re likely to see the mama cow who had twins, the bull that got pink eye, the calf that fell into a ground hog hole and got its front legs stuck and maybe one of the calf born with three legs and, thus, named Tripod. And perhaps you’d see a photo or two of Bree and her twin, Aslyn, or their brother, Nix, who loves to work the cows. Or Jon. Surely, there’d be a picture of Tripp and maybe even his sister, Tyla.
But one thing’s for sure: They’d all be posed with a cow.
One day, Aslyn had Rodney’s phone and was scrolling through the photos. After a few minutes, she looked up and asked, “Granddaddy, do you love your cows more than us?”
Rodney replied, “No, honey, I love y’all more than anything.”
“Well,” replied the little girl. “You have more pictures of your cows than you do of us.”
Rodney is a man who has the love of farming running deep in his veins. He can tell you all kinds of farming stories especially those that have to do with cows. He can tell you about the time that he thought a recently home-from-the-auction bull had something in his throat so Rodney stuck his hand down his throat to clear it. Nothing. When the vet came, he said, “I think he has rabies. Did you have on a glove when you put your hand in?”
“Nope,” Rodney replied. “I don’t even know if I got a pair.”
The bull died and had to go off to the University of Georgia for an autopsy. It was a long week of waiting before Rodney learned the bull had a brain disease not rabies. Rodney has lots of interesting cow stories.
When Tripp, another grandson, was 4, I asked him why his daddy, Rod, wasn’t at Sunday dinner.
“He’s got a cow down,” he replied nonchalantly. You have to be a real farmer to know what that means. Especially at four.
When Bree questioned why the people on the side of the road were “city slickers” while her granddaddy takes pictures of cows also, I explained.
“City slickers take pictures of cows from outside the fence. Farmers take pictures from inside the fence.”
Ronda Rich, author of the What Southern Women Know trilogy, writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.