Bovine Comedy

Some of my favorite fall songs involve cows. Charlie Maguire's "Fall is Here," for instance, or John Gorka's "Winter Cows." ("The cows in the moo yard are making their plans, for the long winter's nights, and the cold winter hands...") My childhood chores with pigs and chickens notwithstanding, we were basically a dairy farm, milking 30 head of Holstein-Friesians twice daily, and sending off the bulk milk to the cheese factory every second or third day.

When I started making pottery, some of those cows wandered up onto the pots, making mug and butter dish handles, Christmas ornaments. But I didn't paint any cows on my pots for just ever.

Why did it take me so long? I have to admit, I'd forgotten how to draw cows. They came out looking like cartoon critters, so I'd wash them off and paint something else. It took a visit back to the home place, a sketchbook and a couple of my brother Val's young stock for me to be reminded of the elegantly wobbly line from poll to shoulder to hip to pin bone, the abrupt jut of barrel (stomach), the awkward angles of hock and knees. A cow is a contraption of a beast, gawky but strangely serene. A philosophical creature who gives rise in cud-chewing contemplation to the word ruminate, a gut-level reflection if ever there was one. Is it any wonder the Hindus consider them sacred?

I now paint these bovine creatures on soup bowls, stew mugs, dessert plates, French butter dishes, and little tiny pitchers. You know, the cream of the crop.