A True Cow Tale – I Miss My Fanny

In 1995, I had my first Big Mac.

Until then, I avoided McDonald’s burgers, sticking to their McChicken. Or McNuggets with dangerous amounts of BBQ or sweet and sour dipping sauces.

I admit I did have the McLean Deluxe when my family went to the U.S. for a vacation, however, I couldn’t finish the Sahara dry burger. Looking back, what if that was a sign? A message in a patty?

As a child, I had a Holstein cow named Fanny. Since the sentence contains “used to,” it’s obvious Fanny no longer moos amongst us.

I didn’t milk or shake straw into Fanny’s stall. Or read her Animal Farm or Fox and the Hound. Or clip barrettes onto her ears and plaster makeup on her face. Or tuck Fanny in at night.

Fanny had the best stall in the barn. Close to the exit. Early release after milking, very important. And beside the bull. In separate stalls, of course. I mean, sharing a stall with a male would be udderly wrong.

Oh, the romantic possibilities! Separated only by white slats of wood and 10 barn cats. A fairy tale in the making. At least to this hopeless romantic – raised on Cinderella, Snow White, and Barbies with Ken dolls.

But those bulls had to act fast.

I caught onto a pattern. Our cousin, who was a butcher, would arrive dressed in white, and – bang – the bull next to Fanny would disappear. Horrified, I learned those stalled bulls were literally new meat awaiting steak and hamburger status.

Despite my efforts, sparks never flew between Fanny and looming T-bones. It could’ve been the ambience. Danging fly paper aren’t really streamers.

Once, I saw Fanny stretching for the bull’s water bowl. Attempted flirtation or extreme thirst? I’ll never know because he ignored her advances. pushing her aging triangular face. Maybe the bull sensed barbequeville was his final destination, and he was bitter (no, he was rather tasty).

It was the first time I saw Fanny put the moves on a bull, and she was shot down. Meanwhile the other Holsteins were popping calves, including an adorable pair of Charolais twins we named Trixie and Dixie. Okay, their mom wasn’t a Holstein, but you see my point. Females cows were having babies, except Fanny.

Our cows were impregnated through semi-immaculate conception. In other words, Thor, our friendly, neighbourhood, A.I. technician.

A.I., meaning artificial insemination. Not artificial intelligence. Again, this was a different time – with 25-cent payphone booths and cassettes. It’s on the Google.

I was fascinated with the G-rated inseminating process. The frozen “stuff” in the long tubes in a round tub of liquid nitrogen. Thor would freeze marigolds, then we’d toss them onto the milk-house floor, shattering them.

Watching the impregnating of a cow was far more entertaining than witnessing the terrifying birthing process. At six years old, my mind was set on adoption.

But Thor never bred Fanny. He bred my sister’s cow, Penny, whose tail was half the regular length. When she whipped her tail, it looked like a limp window wiper. Next time you think you’re having a bad day? Think about a cow in 35°c, and the humidex is 44°c, trying to beat flies off her back with the equivalent of a piece of licorice.

When my dad became an A.I. tech, he had chalkboards over most of the cows, stating their fertile dates, breeding and due dates. All Fanny had over her stall were milk hoses and cats.

Time went on, and I learned cows were impregnated by other means. Those bulls must have caught wind of those chalkboards. But none of them were interested in Fanny. Maybe I should have plastered her with makeup and put barrettes on her ears.

However, word in the barn was Fanny stopped producing milk. My parents were keeping her in the barn. Overnight. During the summer. Because why round up a non-producing cow. My parents told me the blunt burger truth. Fanny was being taken away because she was old and not giving milk. Today, that’s ageism. But on a dairy, that’s reality.

My parents didn’t say she was heading to a cow sanctuary with an all you can eat hay buffet. Licking golden salt cubes. Rubbing elbows with famous cows like the one that jumped over the moon.

Where Fanny was heading was a mystery. Much like how Penny lost her tail. Was Fanny up for sale? An auction? Maybe a farmer wanted a non-milkable cow to motivate the other cows to keep producing. Like a cheerleader:

“M-I-L-K! What are we giving! Milk! When are we giving it! Twice a day!”

I watched Fanny and a handful of other cows leave in a trailer. I felt like Wilbur when he lost Charlotte the barn spider. A kid who drops their Snack and a Half. The last person picked for a dodge ball team. Sad, I was sad.

Then my sister said, “Don’t worry. We’ll visit her next time we go to McDonald’s. Bye, bye, Big Mac.” I was young and impressionable – a smidge gullible. I bought into the Fanny Burger concept, and I avoided all McBurgers.

Until 1995, when I had my first Big Mac.

I figured by then, Fanny was out of the food chain.