I said goodbye to my best friend a week ago and all of us sobbed. Patty Cake was the heart of our homestead. She greeted me at the gate every morning, rain or shine, excited to see what goodies I had for her from the kitchen. Patty taught countless people to milk and tolerated anyone of any size wanting to try. From the tiny hands of my toddler to the giant hands of my husband, Patty gave her milk to whoever asked. My sweet love flexed with the ever changing routine of life with kids and never seemed to complain (too much) if I was late to milk. My dates with her and the milk pail are etched in my mind as some of the best moments of my life. She heard the hurt of my heart as tears would fall into the bucket and was there without flinching when the kids ran around playing in the parlor. And still, she gave her everything. Patty soothed my soul by simply being.
There is an undeniable bond between a milk maid and her cows. To see them hurt, is heartbreaking. Patty had torn a ligament in her leg from a fluke fall she took on Monday. The injury was not a fixable one. She could not walk without the joint slipping and it was obvious that she was in intense pain every time it happened. Patty passed peacefully with her favorite grain still in her mouth. She was laid to rest by a family who loved her. Patty was the ultimate provider. She gave her milk and now, we chose not to waste her body, either. Patty will continue to feed our family, nourishing the bodies of my babies the same way she has for the past few years.
When I brought her home, all those years ago, I knew she was special to us, but I didn’t truly realize the impression she would leave on thousands of other people. She was never “just a cow”. She helped educate and connect so many, bridging the gap between farmer and consumer. As I thanked her one last time, I felt a part of me leave with her knowing that one day, I’ll see her again as I cross that bridge myself.
Sweet momma, you gave me some of the best years of my life and with a heart of gold, you healed some major wounds in my heart. Thousands of gallons later, pounds and pounds of butter, cream and frozen yogurt. I will never forget how you held my head when I cried. You treated me with a softness no one else had ever shown me. You held my heart through some of the hardest moments of my life, Patty. I don’t take for granted what you gave to us as I could never tally the intangible.
Until we meet again my sweet friend.