Beautiful Joe
Chapter 31, Page 2


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


"Well, they do. They are most sensitive animals. One finds out all manners of curious things about animals if he makes a study of them. Cows are wonderful creatures, I think, and so grateful for good usage that they return every scrap of care given them, with interest. Have you ever heard anything about dehorning, Laura?"

"Not much, auntie. Does uncle approve of it?"

"No, indeed. He'd just as soon think of cutting their tails off, as of dehorning them. He says he guesses the Creator knew how to make a cow better than he does. Sometimes I tell John that his argument doesn't hold good, for a man in some ways can improve on nature. In the natural course of things, a cow would be feeding her calf for half a year, but we take it away from her, and raise it as well as she could and get an extra quantity of milk from her in addition. I don't know what to think myself about dehorning. Mr. Windham's cattle are all polled, and he has an open space in his barn for them, instead of keeping them in stalls, and he says they're more comfortable and not so confined. I suppose in sending cattle to sea, it's necessary to take their horns off, but when they're going to be turned out to grass, it seems like mutilating them. Our cows couldn't keep the dogs away from the sheep if they didn't have their horns. Their horns are their means of defense."

"Do your cattle stand in these stalls all winter?" asked Miss Laura.

"Oh, yes, except when they're turned out in the barnyard, and then John usually has to send a man to keep them moving or they'd take cold. Sometimes on very fine days they get out all day. You know cows aren't like horses. John says they're like great milk machines. You've got to keep them quiet, only exercising enough to keep them in health. If a cow is hurried or worried, or chilled or heated, it stops her milk yield. And bad usage poisons it. John says you can't take a stick and strike a cow across the back, without her milk being that much worse, and as for drinking the milk that comes from a cow that isn't kept clean, you'd better throw it away and drink water. When I was in Chicago, my sister-in-law kept complaining to her milkman about what she called the 'cowy' smell to her milk. 'It's the animal odor, ma'am,' he said, 'and it can't be helped. All milk smells like that.' 'It's dirt,' I said, when she asked my opinion about it. 'I'll wager my best bonnet that that man's cows are kept dirty. Their skins are plastered up with filth, and as the poison in them can't escape that way it's coming out through the milk, and you're helping to dispose of it.' She was astonished to hear this, and she got her milkman's address, and one day dropped in upon him. She said that his cows were standing in a stable that was comparatively clean, but that their bodies were in just the state that I described them as living in. She advised the man to card and brush his cows every day, and said that he need bring her no more milk.

"That shows how you city people are imposed upon with regard to your milk. I should think you'd be poisoned with the treatment your cows receive, and even when your milk is examined you can't tell whether it is pure or not. In New York the law only requires thirteen per cent. of solids in milk. That's absurd, for you can feed a cow on swill and still get fourteen per cent. of solids in it. Oh! you city people are queer."

Miss Laura laughed heartily "What a prejudice you have against large towns, auntie."

"Yes, I have," said Mrs. Wood, honestly. "I often wish we could break up a few of our cities, and scatter the people through the country. Look at the lovely farms all about here, some of them with only an old man and woman on them. The boys are off to the cities, slaving in stores and offices, and growing pale and sickly. It would have broken my heart if Harry had taken to city ways. I had a plain talk with your uncle when I married him, and said, 'Now, my boy's only a baby, and I want him to be brought up so that he will love country life. How are we going to manage it?'