Farewell, Koko

August 13, 2012 Comments Off on Farewell, Koko

This is Koko, my Danish host family’s cow.

(At first, I thought her name was spelled “Coco,” as in Coco Chanel. But her name actually stems from the Danish word “ko,” which means “cow” in English.)

Koko’s a Jersey cow, a small, thin breed of bovine known for the exceptional caliber of their milk. Koko’s the veritable rockstar of the farm; and, believe me, she knows it.

When Koko came to my hosts, she was emaciated and overworked. The factory farm where she lived previously used her milk not for profit but to nourish calves. She “mothered” six calves at a time. My hosts rescued her from these appalling conditions, reviving her with plenty of food and affection.

When I began learning how to milk, Koko loved to haze me, the new, weakly volunteer on the farm. I received regular tail lashings to the head and face and the occasional, full-on body slam.

Nothing changed during my short volunteer stint. She almost kicked me once. Then she got into the habit of licking my work pants.

No matter. I like to think that Koko at least learned to tolerate me, which is just about all you can hope for with a cow.

Milking offers an important lesson in humility, I discovered. Work with the cow, not against it. Think about it. Half-ton cow vs. 140 lb person. I don’t need to tell you who will win here.

Of all the lessons I picked up on the farm, I think I’ll remember this one most vividly.

Today was my last day in the Jutland. I made sure to say goodbye to Koko. Although she subjected me to a fair amount of abuse, I’ll miss her.

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