Father and the Cow
See also: Part One
Dorothea sang while she milked. It wasn’t her usual job to milk the cows, but Mother said she could be spared from helping inside since the boys were harvesting Mr. Farner’s orchard this morning. Dorothea was glad. It was good to get outside and enjoy the autumn breeze and sunshine. And even though she was the youngest, she was being trusted to do something important!
Suddenly the cow gave a hard kick and milk sloshed everywhere. “Bad, Susie!” Dorothea said, snatching the pail away. “I was almost done, and now half the milk is spilled!” She tried reaching for the teats again, but Susie lifted her foot. Angrily, Dorothea gave her a slap and sent her outside. “At least Blessing won’t kick,” she said, as she turned to stroke their big Brown Swiss cow on the neck. “Mother gave you the perfect name. If it wasn’t for you, we would have been in desperate straits after Father left. Has it already been two years since he went abroad?”
As Dorothea milked Blessing, her mind wandered back to the day she had stood at the window, watching their faithful cow Meg being sold. Father had left with all the money, and everyone had worried on how they would survive the winter. Everyone, that is, but Mother. She had always known that God would take care of them. And sure enough, when Mr. Farner had loaned them the money to buy Blessing, everything had turned around. They soon had paid off their kind neighbor and had plenty of milk to sell to help buy food and coal for the winter.
The boys came home midday for lunch. “How’d the milking go, Dori?” David asked. “It probably was pretty tough for a little girl like you,” Alfred teased. Dorothea’s face got pink. “I got two and half pails full, even if my arms are sore!” she replied. “Well, I can do it tonight and let them rest,” said Alfred, cheerfully. “Mr. Farner doesn’t need me back until tomorrow.”
“Then I can use your help harvesting the potatoes,” Trina said. “It has been quite cold and I want to get them to the cellar before a hard freeze.”
“Can I help, too?” Dorothea asked. “I’ll hurry with the dish washing!”
“That is a good plan,” Mother agreed. “God has given us such bounty this year that perhaps we won’t need to buy potatoes at all.”
“That’s because we were able to till up a bigger garden plot with Blessing to pull the plow,” put in David. “I never knew a cow could be such a willing worker!”
“I’m going to hitch her to the sled to pull the potatoes to the cellar,” said Alfred, pulling on his jacket. “Meet you girls out by the potato patch.”
The potato harvest was just as wonderful as Mother had said. Dorothea was on her second row when she heard the sound of a carriage stopping by the house. “It’s the clergyman,” Trina said. She dumped a load of potatoes onto the sled and brushed the dirt off of her apron. “What could he want?”
“Don’t know,” Alfred said. “Maybe he’ll report us for using a cow to haul potatoes!” Dorothea looked at her big brother and frowned. She knew he was teasing, but it was true that the clergyman had once said that Father should be reported because he had left them without money. Would he be angry because Blessing was hitched up like an ox?
They didn’t have long to find out. The clergyman and Mother soon came around the house and strolled over to the garden. “A fine harvest indeed!” they could hear the clergyman say. “You tell me that this amazing cow has helped with the farm work as well?” “Yes,” Mother replied. “Our heavenly Father has wonderfully taken care of us, just as He promised. You can see that we have had no lack of anything since my husband has been away.” “Yes, indeed,” the clergyman nodded, thoughtfully. “I admit, I was pretty faithless when he left you penniless. Now I see that the Lord’s saving hand has been stretched out on your behalf.” He watched as the children finished filling the sled. With a “cluck” from Alfred, Blessing lunged into her collar and the full load of potatoes soon was pulled right to the cellar door. “Amazing, amazing,” the clergyman muttered, as he turned to leave. “God has certainly blessed you richly, Mrs. Trudel.”
It was not long after that that the letter from Father came. Lisa handed it to Mother when she got home from work, and all the Trudel children gathered around in curiosity. They had rarely heard from him these two whole years, and Dorothea liked it that way. Now, as Mother read the short note aloud, Dorothea felt a nervous shiver go up her back. “I will be arriving home on the mid-day train on the 15th. Have David meet me at the station to bring my luggage. See you soon.”
The room was silent for several seconds, and then Trina and Valerie let out long sighs. “I wish it wasn’t soon,” Alfred muttered. “We could live a lot better without…” Mother looked at Alfred, and he fell silent. “The 15th is only next week,” Lisa said quietly. “Yes, and we will all be ready to welcome Father home,” Mother said, folding the paper.
Dorothea knew better than to argue, but she wasn’t ready to welcome Father at all. Just thinking about him coming made her afraid and angry all at once. How could Mother be so kind when Father was always selfish and difficult to live with? She watched as Mother lifted her eyes to some faraway place beyond the ceiling. A beautiful glow filled her face, and Dorothea knew Mother was praying. Yes, it was God that made her so sweet and good.
Welcoming Father wasn’t easy, but they all tried their best for Mother’s sake. The boys finished storing the garden produce and cleaned up the yard. Trina and Valerie made his favorite potato soup, and Lisa brought home some bacon to go with it. While David went off to the train station, Dorothea set the table. She pulled up the biggest chair to the end of the table and set it with the biggest bowl. Mother put a warm green scarf over the edge of the chair. She had knitted it especially for Father.
“My dear wife and children!” Father said, when he arrived at the door. Mother gave him a hug and kiss and said, “Are you hungry, dear? Dinner is all ready.” Father smiled and sat down at the table. He didn’t seem to notice the green scarf, but Mother didn’t say anything. “What big girls I have to prepare such a meal, and Dori surely has grown up!” he said. Dorothea lifted her head and smiled. Father wasn’t gruff or mean. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad after all.
At first Father did all the talking. He was jolly and told all about his travels, while everyone listened politely. Dorothea was glad when he at last changed the subject. “Well now, what have all the children been doing to keep busy and out of trouble?” He looked at Mother, but she just smiled and nodded toward Lisa and David. “Ask them, for they certainly have been hard workers.” The older children looked at each other and didn’t say anything. Dorothea wiggled in her seat. She wanted to tell Father how she had milked the cows and helped harvest potatoes, but she knew she must wait until she was asked. At last David said, “We’ve just finished harvesting the garden and so the cellar is stocked for the winter.” “Of course, of course,” Father said, “I certainly can see that work has been done around here. Very fine indeed.” He pushed his chair back from the table.
Dorothea couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “We got a new cow after you left!” she exclaimed. “Her name is Blessing and I help to milk her. She is a good worker, too.” “A good worker?” Father questioned. “Yes, she works like an ox and she is the best milker we’ve ever had,” said Alfred. Father raised his eyebrows and looked at Mother. She nodded. “Yes, dear, God has supplied for our needs in a wonderful way while you were gone.” Father didn’t say anything, and Dorothea noticed the pleasant look leave his face. Slowly he stood and put on his coat. “Well, since you don’t need me around here, I’ll just head down to the tavern. I have friends there.” The last words were surprisingly hard, like Susie’s kick, and Dorothea looked at Mother. Her face was pale, but she smiled bravely. “Have a good evening, dear.” She watched him disappear down the street, then slowly picked up the green scarf from off the chair and folded it carefully.
“Why is Father angry?” Valerie asked, as she gathered the empty soup bowls.
“I think he isn’t happy because we have such a nice cow,” said David.
“Why doesn’t he like Blessing? She is the best cow in the world!” said Dorothea.
“He didn’t like it that we were doing fine without him,” explained Lisa.
“Would he rather have us starving while he was gone?” Trina asked, hotly.
“Probably,” Alfred said, a dark look filling his face. “He’s just as mean as…”
“Children.” Mother’s quiet firm voice brought silence to the kitchen. “We will not talk disrespectfully of your father. The news about Blessing upset him, so we won’t mention it any more.”
“Yes, Mother,” Lisa said. “We won’t.”
Father came home late from the tavern, staggering at the door with a slur in his speech. Dorothea knew he was drunk and was glad to stay hidden under the bed covers. Mother helped him to bed and Dorothea didn’t see him again until late the next morning. She was busy carding wool for Mother when Father came in, his eyes puffy. “Where’s that blame cow you were telling me about?” he asked Dorothea, gruffly. Dorothea looked at Mother, who was quietly spinning. Mother nodded.
“She’s out in the field with Susie, Father,” Dorothea said, nervously. “Do you want to see her?”
“Naw,” Father said, sitting down heavily into a chair. “Just making sure we have her handy when someone comes to buy her.”
“Buy her?” Dorothea’s eyes opened wide in dismay. “You can’t sell her, Father! She’s our best cow and—”
“And she’s going to make some good money, which I need!” Father snapped. “Bring me some hot peppermint tea, Dori. I have a headache.”
Dorothea got up quickly and slipped into the kitchen. She found Valerie making cheese at the stove. “Did you hear what Father said?” she whispered. “He’s going to sell Blessing!” Valerie stopped stirring the curds and stared at her in disbelief. “Not Blessing!” she said with a groan. “What will we do without her?”
“Is that tea coming or not?” Father’s voice from the other room was loud and demanding, and Dorothea scurried to the pantry to get a sprig of dried peppermint. On her way back she nearly bumped into Alfred who was bringing in a load of coal.
“What’s the rush, sis?” he asked, looking at her in surprise.
“Father wants tea,” Dorothea said quickly. But she couldn’t resist adding, “And he’s going to sell Blessing, too!”
“What stupid idea is that!?” Alfred exclaimed. “He’s a f—”
“Shhh!” Valerie hushed them both. “Remember what Mother said. Besides, he’ll hear you!”
Dorothea didn’t say any more, but she didn’t feel one bit peaceful. Every time she heard a carriage roll past on the street she would look out the window nervously. Was someone coming to buy Blessing? Father fell asleep in his chair and snored loudly. Dorothea felt trapped. Mother started to hum softly. She didn’t seem worried at all!
As the week passed by all the children kept one eye on the road. One afternoon Mr. Farner stopped by with his fine carriage when Father was out. David went out to meet him as the rest of them watched through the window nervously. He came back to the house with a frown on his face. “Does he want to buy Blessing?” Trina asked, anxiously. “No, it’s worse than that,” David said, glumly. “Father is selling Blessing at half her value! Mr. Farner just came by to warn us, since he knows what a good milk cow she is.”
“That’s just terrible! What can we do?” Valerie asked, clasping her hands together.
“Don’t be so fearful, children,” Mother said. Dorothea looked up at her strong quiet face and saw a bright light in her eyes. “If your father could do whatever he likes, none of you would be alive now. God will never let him do any more than He knows will be for our good.” She smiled at their sober faces. “Believe me. God, who has given us this cow, will keep it for us as long as we need it.”
Mother was right. The weeks turned into months, and the months into years. Father seemed to forget all about the big Brown Swiss cow, and Blessing continued to give them plenty of milk and hard work. Whenever Dorothea wondered if God would take care of one of their needs, all she had to do was remember the cow He had given them. Just like Mother always said, no matter what their earthly father might do, their heavenly Father was worthy to trust every time.
About this story:
Dorothea Trudel was a real person and this story really happened. She grew up in Switzerland in the 1800’s as the youngest of 11 children. Though her father often was unkind and selfish, Mother Trudel showed her children by her prayers and faith that God was worthy to trust. When Dorothea was a teenager she gave her life to God. After that she lived to show His love to everyone around her, and God used her life and faith to bless many people who were sick and hurting. The lessons of trusting God as a child always stayed with Dorothea, and she was glad to show others that He was a Father that they could safely trust in. Dorothea wrote about her mother and childhood in a small book called, My Mother.