Married to a veterinarian for almost 54 years, I’ve heard about, witnessed, even occasionally helped with hundreds of calvings. As a child, on occasion, I knew the feel of a cow’s side against my forehead while milking, the sound of the milk hitting the bottom of the bucket. I’ve wheedled cows into a stable, hunted them when they were lost, and coaxed a calf to suck milk in a bucket with my fingers. I even wrote a children’s book about “One Brown Cow,” a lonely cow who had been willed her pasture for life. But this week for the first time my veterinarian and I completed the crafting of a life size cow for our manger scene.
We created the first figures for our manger scene (with the help of Fred and Linda Bearden) about ten years ago: Joseph, Mary, the Baby Jesus, and three sheep. Then, after several years we made a docile gray donkey. Now, finally, we have a cow.
After we stenciled the outer pattern onto a sheet of ply board, Charles began the tedious job of cutting using a jigsaw. My job was to hold the extraneous pieces of wood as they were cut loose. We were so excited to see the cow take shape.
Time passed before we could start getting the cow ready to paint. We used a brown as near to that suggested by the pattern as we could find. It doesn’t quite look like any cow I’ve ever seen! More time passed before we started stenciling the features onto the “old” girl. Then, finally, this week, we actually painted eyes, ears, nose, tail and demarcations to show her bone structure, her shape.
Neither of us is an artist, a fact anyone will know when looking at our creations. They are crudely painted but with much love which, the Bible says, covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8). But Charles does know the anatomy of a cow. He should after having spent his life tending to them, operating on them, chasing them down, inoculating them and even performing necropsies to determine their cause of death. So, though the pattern was not always accurate, Charles could fill in the “gaps” with his knowledge of the shape of bones, where this line should end, where another would help to give more substance to our cow. Neither of us is happy with the ears, partly because of that awful Pepto Bismol pink on the inner ear. But, somehow, the overall appearance is such that we can almost imagine this cow mooing on the night Jesus was born.
The art in my little cow book is referred to as “whimsical art.” Maybe what we’ve done on this poor cow is akin to that cartoonish creativity. (My apologies to all artists.)
Anyway, we’ve decided she will “do.” She doesn’t have to give milk, mother a calf, browse a pasture, chew the cud, or anything strenuous. Her only job is to be part of a scene that reminds folks of that holy night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.