Monday, December 14, 2009

A forgotten dairyman

I'll be removing the nut poll from the sidebar tomorrow. Obviously, pecans won by a landslide. I like them best for cooking, but for eating during the holidays, my favorite is the Brazil nut; that isn't what we called them when I was growing up, though.
Now, getting down to brass tacks: I was briefly interviewed by Jonathan Bender of The Pitch a couple of days ago. He had read a New York Times article that suggests cows that are named produce more milk than those that are nameless. I seriously doubt that, but that isn't what I'm going to address here.
I got my first Jersey cow, a grade (not registered) animal, from a local trader; I loved her so much that I simply had to have more Jerseys, and I really wanted a registered animal. When we went to the State Fair, it was all Cliff could do to get me out of the dairy cattle barn.
I took names and phone numbers and began calling breeders of registered Jerseys across the state; nobody was interested in selling me a cow.
Finally someone referred me to Ross Helms, a dairyman at Creighton, Missouri; this person was pretty sure I'd be able to get a cow from him.
Ross had from eighty to one hundred cows in milk, if I remember right. You could tell he loved those cows; they were all he could talk about. Jersey cows look pretty similar, but he could look across that herd and name any individual animal... not just the barn name, like Bonnie or Betsy, but the whole registered name, usually consisting of at least three words. Then he'd go on to tell the dam's and grand-dam's milk production figures. When I'd buy a cow from him, we'd go in the house so he could fill out papers for the transfer. This took quite a bit of time because he had to talk about the history of the cow, who its mother was, how well her sisters performed, and so forth.
The other day I got thinking about old Ross, who passed away years ago, and wondered if I could find him on a Google search. Alas, there was nothing. Cliff and I discussed it, and agreed that of course the man wouldn't show up on a search engine: he never got off the farm! The only other thing I ever heard him talk about besides cows was his garden, and that was just once, when he sent some huge turnips home with us.
I said something about him in a blog entry the other day; then Mr. Bender contacted me, and I mentioned Ross to him. He, in turn, included Ross's name in the article in The Pitch.
Today when I typed "Ross Helms Jerseys" into a search engine, he was right up at the top of the page of results. There were two links: One to my blog entry mentioning him, and one to the article in The Pitch.
His name hasn't totally disappeared off the face of the earth. For some reason, that makes me very happy.


  1. Gone but not forgotten. Helen

  2. I didn't get in on your nut poll but pecans are my favorite too. Now I'll be interested to learn about whether cows with names give more milk.


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