Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Bessie’s Cow Bell

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Bessie’s Cow Bell

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.


You can tell the bell was used often by the repair on the top loop where the rope hung – it took a beating from the years of dangling under Bessie’s neck.

It was Bessie, the lead cow, who wore this cowbell on a daily basis. She led the cows to the barn for milking and the others followed the sound of the cowbell. I’ve always hoped to find a photo of Bessie wearing this cowbell, but so far one… it has eluded me.

Mama’s favorite activity at milking time, was to ride Bessie up to the barn. She often ran ahead and climbed up in the persimmon tree which sat alongside the path. On one of the low limbs, mama waited for Bessie to walk under and quickly slid off onto her back.

To bring the cows to the barn for milking, granddaddy often yelled for Bessie, but somehow she knew when it was milking time and he’d look out to see her already going up the lane toward the barn, with the other four cows following behind her. Sometimes he knew Bessie was already heading to the barn if he faintly heard the clanking of the bell around her neck.

Milking was done twice a day… morning and evening. Leroy, her brother, often went alone for the early morning, but mama tagged along for the evening milking chore. Mama wasn’t the only one who tagged along for the milkings… Leroy’s big yellow cat, Clark Gable, always followed Bessie to the barn. Her objective was the free squirts of milk that Leroy sent her way, against granddaddy yelling, “that damn cat is getting more milk than what’s going in the bucket!” Leroy just smiled and continued to squirt milk at Clark Gable as he sat perched on the ledge of the stall next to mama. Can’t you just picture that yellow cat sitting up there?

The cows supplied milk, cream, buttermilk and eventually butter for the family. I haven’t heard that he actually sold any, but I know that grandmamma saved extra cream in a bucket and there was someone called the “cream man”  who came around to buy leftovers; if it wasn’t refrigerated, what did they do with it?  One day mama decided that it would be such fun to take a “cream” bath in that bucket… just sitting in the corner of the kitchen. When grandmama discovered her, I think she received a whipping for ruining the cream. The cream money was always saved for things not really needed, but wanted; when Leroy was in high school grandmamma bought his high school ring out of that cream money saved.

After talking with mama, I learned that the leftover cream saved was used to make cheese. Granddaddy never sold milk, but he did sell butter – keeping enough for them and selling the rest; I also have grandmama’s two butter molds.

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to  read more stories…

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with, has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at:
This entry was posted in Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Friday Night Family Heirlooms. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Bessie’s Cow Bell

  1. Lyn Smith says:

    Bessie and her bell, Leroy and his cat, Helen and her cream bath. Some of your stories make me wish I’d lived on a farm, instead of just hearing fa few stories now and again.
    So, Leroy was a Clark Gable fan. Any idea what his favorite movie was?
    I can just imagine Helen riding that cow. I do wish you had a picture of that.
    I sometimes think that we’d be so much better off if we’d maintained a lot of the farmer’s life.
    Thanks for the memories.


    • As much as mama tells me she didn’t lead the same life as the city kids but from the stories she has told me – I think she really lived and enjoyed life! I’ll have to ask about Leroy’s favorite movie. Mama’s favorite movie star was Jeanne Crane – hence my name!


  2. Wonderful story to accompany the heirloom. Sorry to say my heirloom stories are random events rather than weekly. I just have my hands full telling an ancestor story plus a recipe each week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.