Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sydney's Passion for Cows

Monday I took Sydney to her happy place, the sale barn in Overbrook. We weren’t there to buy or sell. She just loves to be close to the cows and watch them walk across the auction block. She oohs and aahs over every cow that walks in front of us. She comments and exclaims over each one. She keeps looking at me to make sure I am seeing what she is seeing. She wants me to agree with her. They are beautiful. She has favorite breeds and colors but she believes they are all beautiful. I do not know exactly why my little girl finds cattle so enchanting but she is crazy for them. She has been for many years now. She loves all animals but cows are her passion.

The cattle sale does not start until 11:00 usually and Sydney is up at the crack of dawn so she was very anxious to get going Monday. I suggested she pretend she was an auctioneer and try to auction off her plastic toy cows. I played with her for a while and then moved into the kitchen to do some cleaning. I could hear her though. Her toy farmer was bidding on cattle. She asked him if he’d like to buy one of her bulls for $300.00 and the farmer said that was too much. She asked him if he’d buy it for $2000.00 and the farmer said, “Yes, that is much better.” Numbers are just not her thing. Ha.
Grandpa's herd
We’ve always had cattle close enough to the house that she can catch sight of them most days. My dad, her grandpa, usually has about thirty or so head, mostly Black Angus or mixed breed cattle. Almost every day grandpa goes into the pasture to check on his cows, usually stopping by to pick Sydney up so she can go along. It is the highlight of Sydney’s day. She will forgo swimming, playing with friends, eating, games, movies, or shopping, all activities she enjoys, if she can go with grandpa for the ride through the pasture. I am so glad my dad takes her. It is a special memory she will always have, long after he is gone. It was my dad that introduced Sydney to cows and to the sale barn experience.

Sydney relates well to all of our animals. As I mentioned in a recent post, they do not get tired of her constant chatter or her pestering as people do. I often think of the famous Temple Grandin and how well she relates to cattle when I see Sydney interacting with the cows, dog, and horse. Although Sydney does not have autism as Temple Grandin does, they do have similarities. Perhaps Sydney will work with animals one day if her interests do not change as she ages.

Sydney with Obadiah
Sydney has two cows of her own right now. They have unique names: Obadiah and Habakkuk. When these calves came into our lives, Sydney was learning the books of the Old Testament so she chose to name the calves after prophets. She has shortened the names over time to Obah or Obie and Backa. Obie is a steer (male but not a bull, for you city folk). We bought him from a nearby dairy farmer. Backa, a heifer (female calf, for you urbanites), came from the cattle auction. Obie is an Ayrshire, a dairy breed and Backa is a Hereford. Obie will need to be sold soon. This breaks my heart for Sydney. Obie and Sydney are in love. Backa likes Sydney just fine, especially if she has grain in her hand. But Obie and Sydney have a special bond. Backa is still penned close to the house, too young to be put in with the bull because she is much too young to breed. Obie was turned out into the big pasture at the beginning of the summer. When Sydney sees Obie up close to the house or when grandpa takes her out into the pasture, Obie lets Sydney hug and kiss him, pet him and pat him. If he is lying down, she climbs on him or lays on him. He tolerates it all. He is big enough now that I worry a little bit about how strong he is and how little Sydney is but he sure would not hurt her on purpose. Can I pet Obie? No. Can my dad pet Obie? No. If we get close he walks or trots right away. Sydney has spent so many hours with that calf from the day we brought him home that he has bonded with her. Sydney knows that Obie will have to be sold one of these days and she knows what happens to steers. Some days she seems okay with it and some days tears well up if it is mentioned. I always remind her that she can get another calf and occasionally that perks her back up. It is tough sometimes, being a farm girl. We see a lot of animals come and go.

A few days ago we got quite a laugh when Sydney became confused about something. Habakkuk is a Hereford. That is the breed. She is also a heifer. That is her gender. Sydney knows this. But, she became confused a few days ago about how we could call Backa both things. She asked Shawn if Backa was a mixed breed, half Herford, half heifer.

Sydney pours over books about cows. It is amazing the number of books I have been able to find her about cattle and the different breeds there are. She memorizes the cattle breeds but like many of the things she learns and knows reliably for a while, she loses the information and has to relearn it. This is due to the brain damage from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Some breeds she does not forget often though. Those are her favorites. She LOVES longhorn cattle and there is a pasture of those close by that I sometimes take her to see. I can park the van on the gravel road next to the fence and sit there for a very long time before she is ready to go. A Charolais (pronounced Shar Lay) is a breed of white cattle that Sydney really likes. A Brahma is another favorite of hers. It has a very unique look to it. We have seen a very few of those come through the sale barn but we’ve never seen any out in pastures nearby. She likes Herefords, Black Angus, and Holstein cattle a lot. Many of the other breeds she can name without help some days, while other days the names are totally lost for her. Thank you birth mother with a drinking problem (sarcasm intended).

Sydney knows every pasture with cattle in it and what breed or color of cattle the pastures contain between home and all our regular destinations. If a farmer moves a herd of cows or sells some, it does not go unnoticed by my little girl. On our way somewhere this past week she exclaimed, “Hey, there are usually lots of black cows in that pasture. I wonder where they are?” Sure enough, I did not notice until she pointed it out but the cows were missing. Sometimes it is as detailed as, “There is usually one white faced cow in with all those Black Angus. I don’t see it today.” Sometimes she worries about where the cows went, hoping the farmer did not have to sell them. When I go somewhere without Sydney I sometimes find myself listening for her to exclaim, “Aren’t those cows so cute?” from the backseat.

Sydney's herd
Sydney’s preferred toys are not Barbie dolls, but plastic cows and tractors. She has a couple of plastic barns and a livestock trailer. She asked for a grain truck for her birthday. THAT was hard to find. Sydney builds elaborate fences out of Lincoln logs and she “farms” all over the living room. She does play with other things like baby dolls but often cows are incorporated into that as well. She scans Netflix, looking for shows about animals, especially about livestock. This week Sydney thought she’d like to watch a movie with her oldest sister. Her sister said, “How about a love story?” Sydney said, “Ohhhhh yeah, one with cows in it.” I gave up long ago trying to interest Sydney in Disney princesses and tea parties. I decorated her room in what she loves. She has photos and posters of cattle on her walls. Her bedspread is covered in cows and her curtains are barnyard animals. She is very proud of it. She may have started out in Pskov, Russia but she’s a Kansas farm girl now!

Like what you read?  Want to read more?   Sydney, from the back seat of the van

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