Diamond & Ruby

Diamond was a source of milk, fascination, and adventure. She was a lovely buff color with a white diamond-shaped blaze on her face, and the most beautiful eyes.

Inner Beauty
Inner Beauty

Several memories stand out in which Diamond played a pivotal role. Perhaps the most memorable includes my older brother Jimmy, who convinced me that teasing Diamond by pretending to be bull-fighters would be fun. Poor cow. One day after teasing her without mercy, and to our complete surprise and terror, she turned on us.

We ran into the lane bordering the field, which lead to The Meadow, hoping, in our adrenaline-soaked surprise that this would interrupt her hot pursuit. Instead, Diamond chased us all the way down the lane and straight into The Meadow. Jimmy took a sharp right into the woods, shouting over his shoulder, “This way!” I was beyond the point of taking direction and ran straight into a giant patch of stinging nettles — higher than the top of my 8-year-old head. Ouch!

I have no memory of Diamond after this moment, but I believe she must have chased Jimmy further into the woods. Perhaps he found a tree to scramble up, or maybe he did some log hopping that finally dissuaded her from further pursuit. I do know that like the good big brother that he actually was, he came back for me and walked me up the lane and into the house, where I suppose I must have been doused with Calamine lotion. I spent the rest of the day trying not to scratch the burning welts that covered every inch of exposed flesh.

We deserved it, although Jimmy seemed to fare better than I in that particular misadventure.

We learned our lesson and never did it again. When recounting this story to Dad as an adult, I was met with a disdainful glance followed by a gruff, “No wonder she didn’t give much milk,” as only he could.

Another Diamond-related memory that is decidedly more pastoral centers around hearing streams of milk as they hit the steel bucket, and watching th foaming milk rise to the top of the pale. Dad’s strong and skilled hands worked the teats in a rhythmic one-two, one-two.

This particular milking was in preparation for weaning Diamond’s calf, Ruby. She was a beautiful russet color with eyes even more gorgeous than her mother’s, and with the same diamond-shaped white patch on her forehead. Scratching under her chin as she stretched her neck to accommodate me was so satisfying. She smelled sweetly of hay and cow, and I loved her.

The process of weaning her was simple. Dad poured a portion of Diamond’s warm and abundant milk into a smaller bucket with a long rubber nipple protruding from the bottom. He dipped his fingers into the bucket of warm milk and offered his milk-soaked fingers to Ruby, who sucked on them eagerly. It was an easy final step to guide the 7-day-old calf to attach to the rubber nipple. It was a moment that made Dad smile with satisfaction. I was impressed.

We kept Diamond and Ruby in the same area of the barn, divided by an open fence where they could nuzzle each other. This is the way it’s been done for generations of small farmers. I don’t recall questioning their separation, only loving having them in my life.

 

Jersey heifer
Photo by Gail Dalmat