A Historical Account from a Journal Entry Dated 1950

The following is an actual journal entry that includes in it's story, Mike's grandfather, Boyd Cupp.  I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Mr. Cupp and how he cared for his farm and animals.  Boyd Cupp milked Guernsey cows on his farm and also had a non paying position as a lay minister with the local Church of the Brethren community.  The farm mentioned is where Mike's mother still lives and the farm that we rent in addition to the 50 acres we have where our house is built.  

April 1, 1950

The week before Easter, a friend sent M money to buy a calf to raise as a family cow.  Fletch took M to get the calf this evening.  It was dusk when they got back, M and the calf crouching in the open trunk, their heads looking out together at the twilight and the radiant excited faces of L, K, G and M who had come whoopping when they saw the car coming up the lane.

A and the kids had been busy that afternoon in the straw shed making a pen of saplings and cardboard cartons.  "That wonderful Mr. Cupp," M said, "wants us to make a good start.  He says we are right to buy a calf.  A good beginning.  And to wish us luck, he sold the calf to us for $20 instead of $30.  How he loves each cow in his herd.  And how he knows them!  Whose grandmother, whose daughter is each one.  And how he feeds them!  Such a fat farm!

The calf was established in it's pen in the straw shed, and all evening, M or one of the children was there, talking to her, fussing around so she wouldn't be lonely.

April 4 or 5, 1950

"I don't think the calf is doing so good," M said after the first few days.  "she is too quiet.  She doesn't have the joie de vivre.  She doesn't run or jump in the air.  She is too quiet.  Not good."

At first we thought M was too sensitive.  The calf ate.  Didn't have scours.  Perhaps she hadn't a lively temperament.  She lay in the sun, played with the children.  But M was worried that if anything happened to her first calf, she would lose her nerve.  It would be a bad sign.  We reminded her that all spring calves had had their troubles, and all spring, Doc Berry had been giving shots for colds, pills for scours.  Some calf always in trouble or just out of it.  M had been anxious over each one, and Madame had cried havoc and wolf-wolf so often in the kitchen that I was mildly fed up with the pessimism.  All the calves had recovered.  Why worry because this one was quiet?

Then one morning M knocked on the West Room door, as she always did, and came in and asked me to call the vet, Doc Berry.  "It is silly, I think, to spend $20, on a calf and not to spend another $2.50 on a vet when it is sick.  Something is wrong.  I don't know what she has, but she doesn't eat good."


So Doc Berry came and gave a shot to M's calf and to one of ours, said they probably both had colds, and to call him if they weren't better in 48 hours.  Everyone feels considerably cheered and M is pampering the calf with a little more hope.

"I do for the calf simply what I would do for a small child who is sick.  The rice water for the tender stomach, the coffee for blood and spirit."

All day she had been running from house to barn with rice water and coffee.  Sometimes, of course, the rice on the stove was forgotten, boiled over and burned.  There were cries of distress and Madame would appear on the gallery, wringing her hands.

But in spite of Doc Berry's shot and the rice water and coffee, the calf grew weaker.  It got to it's feet only with urging.  Thursday night, about ten o'clock, M came to the West Room door.

"Dear lady, I  know I am mad, but what is there to do about it?  I must live with my madness.  I think the calf will die unless Doc Berry can do something.  Will you do me the favor to call and ask him to come now?  I am afraid to wait until the morning.  I think it will be too late.  If I am mad, I am mad - nothing to do."

I called Doc Berry again, who in his horse croaking voice agreed to come right over.  M went up to the barn to wait for him, and soon afterwards, I heard his car.  When he had gone, she came down to the house.

"It is bad.  He says the calf has the bloody scours.  They nearly always die.  Now and  then one lives.  It is possible.  He has given me pills - sulfa, I think - to give every four hours, night and day.  If the calf lives another 48 hours, it may get well.  He says the rice water is good.  The coffee is good."

At about four in the morning, I wakened, hearing M's steps on the porch.  The calf still lived.  Perhaps it would pull through.  I slept again, dreaming it was miraculously recovered.


Today the house is deep in gloom.  The calf still lived but can no longer stand.  M was constantly at the barn.  Madame was full of sorrow for the young thing that must die and for the ill omen of this first venture.  We kept assuring each other that it was, after all, only a calf, but when M asked late Friday evening for the spirits of ammonia, K dashed frantically off to town, and even A got up in the night to give the calf it's pills.  But it died.

I had heard M or A up in the night at twelve and again at four, and thought surely the miracle has happened.

"And so it seemed to have, " M told me.  "When I went to the barn at four, the calf was standing!  It's ears were up, it looked bright, curious, well again!  And it drank all the rice water.  I threw my arms around it, and went back to bed, full of joy that the calf had recovered.  But at seven, it was dead."

After all the tender care and affection, dead.  Saturday morning, A dug a deep grave in the garden.  When he had finished, he went to the wall of the straw shed and removed some of the weather boarding.  Together, he and M lowered the calf into some burlap and carried it to the grave so as not to contaminate the barn yard.

(You may like to hear a good sequel to the unhappy calf story.  Mr Cupp, the full time dairy- man and part-time preacher who sold M her calf, insisted that he either give her another or return her money.  She felt that such generosity must be accepted and so she has another calf - a pretty little thing which has been from the start, she says, more lively and happy than the other.  In spite of the heartbreak over the first and anxiety over the second, M sought words the other day to tell Fletch that "life in America is an idyll - everyone is so kind, so gentle, so tender.  A man like Mr Cupp - so practical a man, with so beautiful a farm, to have the idee to give me another calf.  Mostly in life, the ones have have so generous a wish have nothing and those who could give, have not the wish.  Mr Cupp is a beautiful man.")


I love written words almost as much as I love cows and it was a pure delight to me when my dear father-in-law (now deceased) shared with me a hand typed copy of a journal.   I can still see the delight and anticipation shining in his eyes as he handed the paper to me to read.  I can't remember who actually gave Marcus the journal entry, but I believe it was a member of the Collins family.  The journal entries were said to have been  written by Margaret, wife of  Fletcher Collins.  Professor Collins, a neighbor of the Cupp Family was a " legendary professor emeritus of theater at Mary Baldwin College, was designated Cultural Laureate of Virginia, and established the Oak Grove Theaterthe secluded woodland stage he created with his wife, Margaret, which has nurtured countless actors and booked sold out perfomrances for decades: according to the information given by Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA.  To his wife, family and friends, he was simply known as "Fletch".

Just as a point of interest, although my notes are incomplete, the journal mentions Margaret being away for four days and returning with their new baby.  The dates of the journal coincide with the date of birth I uncovered for Margaret and Fletcher's  very well known son, Francis Sellers Collins.  Francis was born April 14, 1950 and is a physician geneticist noted for his discovery of disease genes and his leadership in the Human Genome Project.  He is currently the director of National Institutes of Health in Maryland.  

 The family interacting with the Collins Family in this particular story were Latvian immigrants who had found a place of refuge on the Collin's farm.  I believe my father-in-law told me that the Collin's opened their home to them.  It appears that the "Madame" must have assisted Mrs. Collins with helping in the main house.  I copied the journal as it was written with the exception of leaving out the full names of the Latvian family for the sake of privacy. 

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