The Diary of Daisy the Dairy Cow

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dear Diary!
I had completely forgotten, but today my farmer (his name is Fred, but the other cows call him “the hay-bringer”, I rather like him, he always has a gentle word for me, and he promised he’d look after my young ones when they had to leave me) reminded me that we were going to town for the fair.
Actually I hadn’t forgotten about it – how could I? – but I thought we’d go later, in the spring, when the roads are easier to travel on. But no, it’s the day after tomorrow we are leaving. I’m so excited!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dear Diary!
Today is the great day. I have learned that I am to go with Bessy and Cherry, and after milking this morning we’ll be “groomed” – whatever that means – and then we’ll leave for Paris! I’m so excited, I can’t sleep any more. But I think I hear the milker coming…

dreaming of Paris
going to Paris Friday, February 24, 2006 - Paris

Dear Diary!
I don’t usually write after milking in the evening, but today I’m so excited, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep anyway.
I had never thought that Paris was so far away – we travelled a full day, and it was very uncomfortable in the van with Bessy and Cherry. Cherry says Fred must have rented the van from the riding stable, she said it strongly smelled of horse dung. I can’t smell anything, but I’ve never had a nose for smells. I wonder if the horses do. Will they smell cows when they get their van back?
I didn’t notice at first when we arrived in Paris, but Bessy who’d been last year told us that the van slowing down and loud honking noises were a sure sign we were approaching the capital. With the windows of the van being at horse height, we couldn’t see anything outside except the sky which was grey. So depressing!
When we finally stopped there were lots of people and other vans and bales of hay and other animals around wherever you looked. Fred’s calf led me inside a big building, much bigger than the stable at home or even the farmhouse – though I have never seen the farmhouse from the inside of course. It was huge, and the ground was covered with some strange stuff that felt all funny under my hooves but at least it wasn’t slippery. I know Fred would get a heart attack if any of us broke a leg or something like that.
It’s getting late and they are beginning to turn the lights off at the other end of the building. I’ll write more tomorrow before the milking – I hope it’s not too early here, I’m so tired…

Saturday, February 25, 2006 - Paris

Dear Diary!
I woke up real early after all, it’s still dark outside, but there is a tiny light nearby and I can just see my front hooves, so it should be sufficient to write.
Bessy, Cherry and I were led through that huge building to something that looked surprisingly like the isolation stall in our stable where we’re taken when we’re about to calve, except that there were no walls all around, only a knee-high board on one side, but there was a thick layer of straw on the ground that even to me smelled familiar, and a cup for drinking was fixed to the front of it and there was hay on the other side of the board. I got the place on the side, next to Bessy, and Cherry on the other side of Bessy. Fred put those head collars on our heads, I’m sure we look like horses now though Cherry says we only look ridiculous and she hates Fred for doing this to us, but I know we have to wear them or we aren’t allowed to be at the fair, he explained to me when he tried it on the other day. Bessy didn’t say anything but I expect she knew from last year.
I wanted to lie down in the straw. I felt all funny after the long trip, and I was washed and groomed before – now I know that groomed means we are washed and dried and now we all look nice and shiny – or at least we did until we lay down in the straw. Fred sighed when he saw us but didn’t say anything. He did try to get us up again, though. At first I thought he was mad at us, but then I understood it was to lead us to the milking. They have a milking station here for all the cows at the fair, because obviously we have to be milked every day. The station is funny, not at all like the one at home, and we are standing with our heads against a blue wall, and to get there we have to walk halfway across the building, but at least that way I get to see some of it. There are lots of other cows from all over France and even some foreign cows who don’t speak French. And there are sheep and goats too. I had expected chicken like we have at home, but I haven’t seen a single feather nor heard a single cocorico. But I think I’ve seen pigs – strange ones, with black spots just like us on their pink skins. Funny pigs.
After the milking we were tethered to our stalls but with a rope long enough we can stand or lie down and move a little but not out of the stalls, and Fred gave us food and then said goodnight and left. I barely had time to write the lines above, and then the lights were turned off.
I noticed my name’s on a plaque above my stall, and there are mommy and daddy’s names too and Fred’s of course. Bessy and Cherry have plaques too – Fred must have been planning this for a long time.
While I’ve been writing this the lights have gone on, and there’s Fred coming. I think today we get the people coming in to see us, so I’m really excited.

Saturday, February 25, 2006, in the evening

Dear Diary!
What a day!
I’m so tired, I don’t know if I’ll be able to write down everything that happened today, but then I’m so excited I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. When Fred came to see us this morning it was for milking of course. There were lots of other cows waiting for milking too, so we had to stand in line and wait our turn – I hope it’s not going to be like that every day, but I’m afraid it will. The milking station is far too small for all those cows here at the fair. Bessy never mentioned that when she told us about the fair last year.
Today was indeed the day when the people came, after the milking we had barely time for breakfast when there was a lot of noise and then all of a sudden, there were hundreds and hundreds of people streaming into the building and some of them were carrying extra lights that were really bright and hurt my eyes, and they were milling around starring at us and trying to touch us. Bessy pretended that it was the most normal thing in the world but I could tell she was nervous So was Cherry. But I was the one who was bothered the most, although I didn’t find it all that bothering. If every day is going to be like that, I might change my mind about it and just step on someone’s feet, by accident of course.
Then suddenly, while we were munching our hay, there were a lot of lights coming towards us and some people that somehow looked very important though I couldn’t tell why at first. But then I realised that they were all surrounding one man but keeping a distance to him, so that he was the only one who was not pressed by the crowd. When he stopped beside my stall I saw Fred beaming beside him. The man reached out a hand – his left hand, I noticed – to stroke my flank, and Fred gave me an imperceptible nod so I just lay there, looking at the man and at the black objects a few other men were carrying on their shoulders around him. Someone held a big round thing in front of the man’s mouth. It was attached to a string, I’d never seen something like it at home on the farm, and I asked Bessy later when they had gone, she hadn’t seen one of those either last year, but she’d seen the man. He’d come on the first day last year as well, but he hadn’t stopped at her stall. She remembered him though because of the same thing that I had noticed, that he was surrounded by a ring of people protecting him from the crowd. Anyway, back to the funny round thing. The man spoke into it, looking at those black things, all the time stroking my flank. He said something that I didn’t catch but it made everyone laugh, and then someone held another of these round things in front of my head, and obligingly – I’m not stupid, even though I’ve heard many people say that cows are stupid – so obligingly I said “moo” into that thing, like the man had spoken into it. The guy who held it grinned at me, and a lot of people laughed, and the man who’d been stroking my flank said something that had everyone laugh again. Fred had turned red in the face, but I‘m not sure if he was embarrassed or proud. Anyway, Bessy said I shouldn’t have mooed, and Cherry said I’d done just fine, so the two argued about it for a while after the people had gone. Or at least, the people around that man and those with the bright lights had gone. There were lots of people all day, up until milking time. They had put up barriers so we could get through the crowd to the milking station in the evening, and a lot of people, especially the small ones, were standing behind the barrier starring at us – even while we were milked! Now, I’m not one to be prude, but you aren’t alone for a moment all day, even when you get milked they are there watching you. And they are all taking photographs. These flashes are going to blind me if the rest of the week is anything like today. But at least Fred assured me the people with those big bright lights wouldn’t come back. Finally he had been proud, not embarrassed, as I found out after the milking. He told me the man who’d stroked my flank was the president of all France. Only the people vote for him, of course, but he’s president of the rest of us, too. Now it’s me who is proud – I spoke with the president, so to say! And Fred said I was also speaking on the telly – I don’t know what that is but he said it’s something that allows people who are too far away to come and see us at the fair to see us anyway, by the way of those big black objects some men were carrying on their shoulders, and so all of France could see me speak with the president! How’s that for a first day at the fair?
Now I’m right exhausted from writing everything down, I think I’ll be able to sleep well after all…

the President and Daisy
Jean-Marie is dead Monday, February 27, 2006

Dear Diary!
I didn’t write anything at all yesterday, I was far too exhausted when I woke up. I woke later than the day before, the lights were already on, and it was almost milking time. I prefer milking in the morning when there is no-one to watch us except the other farmers and their cows who wait in line.
But yesterday something terrible happened, and I felt far too shaken to write about it right away. Jean-Marie, the big bull around the corner from our stalls, died yesterday. Just like that. He lay down and died. At least that’s how Cherry says it happened, she has it from a Normandy cow in a stall opposite Jean-Marie’s. Of course we heard about it very soon, the rumour was all over the place. And then people came with a big machine to lift him and take his body out. I saw his empty stall when I went to milking last night, and the farmer had a black ribbon tied around his arm and looked very sad, but he had some other cows with him, so he had to stay with them. And I think that’s right, they are still alive after all.
Poor Jean-Marie. I hope he is happy, wherever he is now. At least he didn’t suffer.

This morning, after the milking, Fred took me to the grooming. In passing I saw a babysitting stall, a dozen or so of baby Holsteins were there, they reminded me of my own little ones, but of course they are grown much bigger than that by now. I wonder what has become of them?
At the grooming station I was washed again and I was afraid they’d wash my hide off and I’d be completely naked. Fortunately they didn’t, but they did something else: they shaved my udder! The groom went down on a knee beside me while another one held my tail – that was unnerving, not to be able to swish my tail – and then he went with a little shaving machine, a razor he called it, very carefully up and down my udder. I remember the day Donny the bull broke free and Fred who’d been shaving his face cut himself and when he came after Donny he was bleeding all over, so naturally I was very much afraid for my udder. But the groom was very delicate, and the shaving almost felt like a caress – it reminded me of the day when all those children came to the farm and Fred showed them how to milk me by hand. He has very sensitive hands, Fred does, and I’d love to have him milk me by hand, only it takes so much longer than with the machine, and in the end it starts to hurt. Oh well, you can’t have everything I guess. But every now and then, I wouldn’t mind.
When he had finished my udder, he trimmed the frill on my spine, and when he’d finished, he clapped me on the rump, smiling, and said “Such a beauty you are – we’ll get you through the competition with no trouble at all!” I froze when I heard that – what competition was he speaking of? Bessy had said nothing of a competition last year, she’d said she’d spent a quiet week being looked at and touched and photographed, but she didn’t say anything about a competition!
Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Dear Diary!
Monday was a busy day. In the morning, there was a competition of the “best pointer” at the bovine rink – I’m not sure what that is, and I was afraid that I’d have to go, after having been groomed in the morning, and it said “Holstein”, that’s my family name, but then I realised that competition had already started while I was still at the grooming.
Later however Fred came to get me and led me not the bovine rink but to the big rink, the one with the rows of seats for people to watch and some sort of huge flat canvas that Fred called a “screen” above our heads. I didn’t know what it was for at first, but then I saw an image of myself moving through the rink led by Fred and I thought it must be something like this telly he mentioned the other day. I could see very clearly that despite the head collar I didn’t look anything like a horse. There goes an illusion…
I still didn’t know what it was all about but I was to find out after some time. There was a guy with another of these round things with a string attached, the ones the humans talk into, and his voice came out really loud all over the rink – I hope my mooing wasn’t that loud all over this telly thing when I spoke with the president! Anyway, that guy talked very much and very fast, and as I concentrated not to step on Fred’s feet I didn’t get it all. I had to stand, and walk, and stand again, and turn – oh of course I wasn’t alone, there were five other Holsteins, but neither Bessy nor Cherry among them. In the end, Fred led me back to my stall and he looked very happy and gave me an extra handful of grains when the other cows weren’t looking and he smiled. When I came back from milking that evening, there was a nice shiny medal surrounded by red ribbons attached to the sign with my name above my stall. The writing was very small and I couldn’t read it but Bessy who is farsighted told me it was a prize I’d won at the competition in the morning. Competition? I thought. So that’s what a competition is. I had expected a competition to be something involving sport, like the Tour de France Fred loves so much. So I won a competition, only by walking around and standing straight, and I didn’t do anything about my looks at all. They didn’t even taste my milk or look at my calves! I mean, I know that humans keep us cows for our milk and our babies, but those people didn’t look at any of that… Oh well, if they think I’m good-looking enough to deserve a prize no matter how my milk tastes and how healthy my calves are, than they must really have a high opinion of me! I hope I can keep the medal – that’ll look nice in the stable at home, and it’ll give the others something to talk about. Bessy didn’t come back with a medal last year.

Friday, March 3rd, 2006 - very late

Dear Diary!
Today the fair was open late, till way after milking. Nobody told us about that, so when we came back from milking we were looking forward to the quiet evening hours, when the farmers clean out the stalls and the noise slowly dies down until the lights are turned off, but that didn’t happen. There were still many visitors, and I was getting tired and irritable, and the people kept patting my nose and my ears and any other part of my body they could reach – and as I’m in the side stall, they can reach a lot of those parts. In the end I got really mad at some man who was showing off to his little ones by putting his fingers in my mouth so I just clamped my mouth shut. He’s lucky I don’t have any upper front teeth, like all cows, or he would have lost his fingers. As it was, he only had to pull very hard to get them out again, and I made sure his nice jacket was well covered with my spittle too. That guy isn’t going to come back to the fair next year, I’m afraid. Oh well, I won’t miss him…

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

Dear Diary!
This morning I actually overslept and Fred had to wake me to take me to the milking station. I stumbled over my own feet, I was so tired. The day was no different from the others, except there were more people coming in. Bessy says that’s because it’s the “weekend” which in town apparently means that a lot of people aren’t working. Fancy that. I wonder who is doing their work on these weekends? Fred works every day of the week, and so does his family. I’d like to know what the sense of these days without work is. But then townspeople are rather a different bunch as I’ve noticed this week. Some of them don’t know a cow from a bull, I can tell you!
Anyway, I was really tired and after breakfast lay down again in my stall and tried to fall asleep again despite the noise all around. I thought I must have gotten used to it by now but still I couldn’t sleep. So finally I stood up again, just to change my position a bit and stretch my legs, but I was still rather tired and didn’t feel like moving much.
My eyes were half closed, that’s why I didn’t notice her at first. When I did, she was sitting on the bales of hay someone had forgotten next to my stall (I didn’t complain, it’s always nice to have some extra hay at hand, and the bales were placed so conveniently as to keep people at a distance from me – I wonder if maybe Fred put them there on purpose?) and she was busy drawing on her sketchpad. The girl was wearing a black coat and a red hat, and she kept looking at me and then back down at her sketchpad. I was really tired, and not at my brightest, for it took me some time to realise that she must be drawing me. When I did of course I became curious and tried to see her sketchpad. The funny thing was that she noticed I was trying to see the drawing and she blushed and said – yes, she actually talked to me – that she was no great artist but only practising, but that she loved drawing cows and she was so sorry she couldn’t do any better. She said she’d show me when she’d finished and she said it was really nice of me to stand so still for her. She explained she usually only took photos and then did the drawing at home from the photos, but once a year she came to the fair to draw real-life cows.
That girl talked quite a lot, but she kept drawing all the time, and when she had finished she turned her sketchbook and showed me her drawing. She’d drawn me completely in profile, and without that stupid head collar: I didn’t know my nose was pointing up when you look at it from sideways, but she got my black spots very accurately. In fact, the only thing that looked a bit weird was my tail – but then I’ve never been able to hold my tail still for any amount of time. I’m just sorry the girl went away in the end, I would have liked Fred to see that drawing… Bessy and Cherry teased me about it of course, saying I was getting vain and conceited. I think they are jealous of the attention I get: But was it my fault that I have the stall on the side where everybody passes by???

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

Dear Diary!
The fair is over tonight. I thought I’d be glad but actually I’m quite sad about it. There were no more competitions today, but still a lot of people came in. I think the people aren’t all that interested in the competitions, they come to see us, competition or no.
I had a nice surprise: The girl with the red hat came back today, and she had the drawing of me with her. She’d come to check my name which she had forgotten yesterday. And Fred happened to be there, so he got to see the drawing after all. He said it was very nice, or at any rate very realistic, but I don’t know if he said that because he meant it or because he wanted to please the girl. She looked sad when she had to leave, and I would have liked to cheer her up. But what could I have said to her? Maybe I could have told her where we live, and she could have come to see us in the summer. I would have let her touch me. She said that was what she missed the rest of the year – she went to see lots of cows in Normandy and Brittany every summer, but the only time she can touch them and they will stand still for her is at the fair.
Oh well, you never know, maybe she will come by this summer, I saw her take note of our village’s name on my plaque. But will she recognise me? After all, she has the drawing with all my spots in the right places, so if she brings that drawing, she should be able to pick me out. Or maybe she’s noted my earring number…
I’m really becoming vain. A nice talk and already I’m thinking someone will come several hours from Paris to see me! I think I should stop writing this rubbish and get some sleep. Tomorrow we have the exhausting journey home. Ah, home! The stable and the meadow with the fresh green grass (I like hay, but it’s not quite the same taste as the hay at home, and after a week of it, I’m really looking forward to some fresh grass) and the quiet! Of course the others will ask us a thousand questions about the big city and the fair, and they won’t believe we’re just glad to be back home. But I didn’t understand Bessy last year either. I guess you have to have been here yourself to understand. Overall I enjoyed the experience and I hope I can come back next year.

Goodbye Paris!