BOOK REVIEW: True Cow Tales, a Collection of Dairy Farm Memories

“Cows are the foster mother of the human race,” Wis­consin’s Governor William Dempster Hoard once said. He even had a notice posted in his barn: “Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated.”

True Cow Tales is a very authentic collection of stories from a variety of authors – several of whom are Wisconsinites. It’s filled with all sorts of down-home lore and encounters that only a farmer or a farm-kid would gather from day-to-day experience, but usually not share with anyone except friends and family. Editor, Christine Lindemer is one of those insiders who has managed to collect a set of well-written and engaging narratives from the farm that reveal many of those small secrets contained within the hearts of rural America.

The book is a collection of stories by 40 farmers, ranchers, and dairy princesses across the U.S. and Canada. It includes a short chapter of ‘cow poetry,’ some photos and a number of illustrations. But after reading True Cow Tales, I am struck by the fact that this book also contains snapshots of a time that no longer seems to exist.

The works of several Wisonconsinites, including poet August Derleth, are included in the book. A man from Watertown, WI, has two stories in the book. A woman from Edgerton, WI, has a wonderful poem in the anthology.

Stories like Diane Popenhagen’s “Roland’s ‘Sugar'” deliver a powerful picture of rural life, up before the sun when the cold cuts through multiple layers of well-worn work clothes, walking methodically to the barn, getting those frozen fingers revived by warmth of hand-milking a herd of cows. The warm memories and the tragedies are all here, some farms lost, some trophies won.

This book should be required reading for every newcomer who migrates from the city to live in once-rural Door County. There was a time not that long ago when these stories were the daily occurrences taking place up and down the county highways of the peninsula. Now, sad to say, this book is a historical collection of fading artifacts – ones that should indeed be remembered.

Christine Lindemer, also a contributor and small beef cattle farm owner says, “I intend to publish a second volume at some point and will be looking for more material. My contact information for stories is: PO Box 961, Groton, MA 01450 or click to e-mail. True Cow Tales is available online through, or check with your favorite local bookstore.

“True Cow Tales is a true joy to read. These stories brought back many memories of growing up on our family farm. True Cow Tales ought to be a part of everyone’s family library and should be shared over and over.” Ken Rahjes, Farm Broadcaster KRVN Radio, Lexington, Nebraska

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