There are a lot of people that have used the GI bill in many ways; my buddy “E” used it to fund a first-rate vet education, some learned to work on cars, my grandpa used it to learn about cattle.

A few months after being discharged from the Army Air Force, at the end of World War II, he came back to Elkton, took over the family farm, and married my grandmother.  He worked on base in Fort Campbell, doing construction. At night, he went to school in Elkton to learn about managing livestock.

I’ve never met a more honest, humble, or hard working man; he had survived the hell of war and wanted to put as many miles between him and his European tour as possible. He was 100 percent involved in whatever endeavor he worked, and farming was no different. This is a more light hearted story of the early, post war era.

My grandparents started a small, hand milked dairy in 1948.  The milk man picked up cream three times a week, and the money went to purchase wheat flour and groceries at the Heltsley store. They drank the liquid milk and made their own butter with extra cream.

The Clifty farm was mostly woods, but there was enough room for 7 or 8 cows.

Pa said when he was drafted, he talked with his father about buying the farm. Pa told his dad that most boys weren’t making it home, and that if he survived, he wanted to purchase the farm. The sale was completed in the late forties, and work immediately began on rebuilding his home place. By the time my dad was born, the family had settled in their new home, complete with the cows.

cattleman say that in every herd, there is always, “one cow”.

One will always jump the fence, get out in the road, stand in the gateway, scatter the other cows like deer being hunted.

Pa’s dairy was no exception; everyday, the same cow jumped the fence next to the barn and raced away from the milk parlor. She rejoined the herd, promptly, after milking, and would remain calm until pa came back to milk again.

The chess game between my grandfather and the cow continued for weeks:  stronger gates, more people, cow dogs, electric fence, barbwire, nothing was successful at keeping the old girl at home. She simply refused to be milked. Though he had the patience of Job, eventually, pa was at the end of his rope.

He walked in and told my grandmother one day, ” if she jumps the fence again, I’m going to dust her with a shotgun.” His goal was not to harm the cow, just to teach her a lesson, and boy did this lesson backfire.

The next morning, pa gathered the cows to be milked. Just as they entered the parlor fencing, the cow made her way to the weakest point, and with the grace of a thoroughbred, she lept  in the air.

pa was prepared. He quickly pulled the shotgun, aimed for the rump, and pulled the trigger. The shot went low, ( he was in the Air Force) tearing through the cow’s udder and sending milk flying into the air. The old girl cleared the fence and never looked back, she didn’t know what happened, but she knew it wasn’t good.

My grandmother rushed out during the commotion to see what happened; pa sheepishly explained the situation and his poor aim. Grandma spared no time getting Dr. Rose on the phone to check the cow. Pa knew this debacle was going to be expensive.

When Dr. Rose arrived, he burst into laughter. The poor old cow had a pretty good hole in her back quarter. All of his helpers joined in the laughter, until pretty soon, everyone on the farm was laughing but pa and the cow.

Dr Rose was an astute veterinarian, he always wore his white overalls, laid clean linens on hay bales, and created a sterile environment to complete his surgeries. He quickly examined the cow, told pa that he could fix her, and sutured the wound closed. A quick shot of antibiotics and the procedure was complete.

Now, I don’t condone shooting a cow, but this was a different world and a different time. The cow made it just fine; she never jumped the fence again and made a pretty good milk cow.

Pa kept on milking and farming for many years until his construction business took off, and Dr. Rose and his boys never forgot the day Shelby Laster shot his jumping cow. Until the day Dr. Rose died, he teased my grandfather about his aim and choice of shot placement in a milk cow.

The lesson here is clear:  don’t jump fences if you don’t want to get shot, the grass ain’t always greener on the other side, and losing your temper never yields positive results.

Thanks for reading,


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