I am trailed through the barn by an almost-three-year-old Jabberwock, who happens to be obsessed with cows.  The stage of asking “why” every five seconds is upon us, and when I run out of legitimate answers, “because” is my go-to response. For all of her talking, Cora does pay very close attention to everything that comes out of my mouth. I know this, because as soon as she starts to play with her toy cows, the words that I was uttering hours before start coming out of her mouth as she bosses her herd around. When making supper last week I could hear her saying, “she’s just thinking about it”, on repeat. It took me a bit to remember that I said that as a way to explain to her why I put a heifer in the parlor and walk away so she ‘thinks about it’ and goes into a stall on her own accord without yelling and pushing. Cora’s cows do an awful lot of thinking before they go in their headlocks, like some of my first-calf heifers.
    Much like the boys, Cora’s play mirrors her daily life. Whereas they were hauling manure and packing the pile, Cora’s moving cows around (with a mini cane), giving Bovikalc, vaccinating with empty Inforce bottles, trimming feet, and giving IVs. The boys had twisty-ties for equipment hitches; she has ponytail holders that become halters to tie her cows up. The boys toted tractors everywhere; she carries a backpack wherever she goes that’s full of cows and magnetic squares which she sets up for fences. They pulled stuck tractors out, she pulls calves. This mini-me is a constant source of entertainment and amazement to all of us in the barn. I just shake my head sometimes when she is a step ahead of me: “We need the chains, you have to pull her baby out.”
    Cora has about a dozen cows that she can recognize on sight and knows by name as we walk the barns—sometimes I wonder if those cows know her just as well. Call it chance, luck, or just plain wild, but last week as we were sorting cows for the hoof trimmer I had a first time experience in the barn. With Cora on my hip, we opened the gate for pen four. Carmen was inside finding the ladies we needed. Cora, realizing what pen we were in, starts whining to see Kaboodle.  The only thing worse than carrying a snowpant-clad, heavy creature on your hip through the barn is when that child starts to wiggle and whine. To pacify her, I started calling ‘Kaboodle, come here’ in a sing-song voice. I couldn’t believe it when that goofy heifer turned from her feed halfway up the barn alley and started moseying our way. Cora was shocked silent, giving me a shy smile of astonishment. Kaboodle, always one wanting attention, came right up with friendly licks and sniffs, and then stood there by us as we sorted cows out. We milk more than 800 cows and there are 140 cows in this pen alone – my mind was blown. I swear that silly heifer was smiling, probably just pleased as punch to have earned a few scratches in hard to reach places.
    When Cora plays with her cows, it is only she that has a voice. The jabbering while playing is her ordering them to move, explaining to them where they need to go, or scolding them for indiscretions. She doesn’t give them voices, hardly even has them ‘moo’. She will give me the play by play of what is happening, though. ‘All these cows are calving. You need to pull a calf for me, Mom.’
    This farmgirl of mine is rough and tumble, but takes herself to the confines of the milkhouse if I am pulling a calf and the cow’s volume gets too loud. She doesn’t handle that very well at all. She knows that sometimes I have to send cows to heaven and will explain to you why if you ask her, and often, the how. Cora will carry her dolls to the barn, and sway with them as they need to sleep, or sit and read books to them. Someone asked me if she was a ‘girly-girl’ recently. My response was that she was the girl with a doll in one hand and a cane in the other, ready to chase her cows around. One of the extra children I had following me around the farm over break asked if Cora goes to school (thinking daycare). I said, “Cora goes to ‘farm school’.” After all, is there really any better place to learn about the real things in life?
    After Cora was born, Stacy and I wrote a column about not using the princess word with her. I physically cringe every time someone refers to her as ‘a little princess’ and think—‘man, you should see her yell at cows.’ I still despise that word, though the dresses and pink have made their way into the barn clothes rotation at her insistence.
    She will turn three soon, and this has me marveling at her knowledge of life and death, cows and calves, and so many other things. I swear that my parenting with her hasn’t been all that different than from the boys, but the fact that she adores cows is a welcome trait. Stacy made her a personalized book for Christmas with all of the cows she knows, and she will read the entire thing to any willing human. It is a hoot, how one so little can pack so much into her brain. I blame the fact that I’m a Jabberwock that birthed a Jabberwock, and that the people around her give her real answers to her never-ending questions. At the end of the day, she is just a girl who loves her cows. And that is a beautiful thing.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.