The story of ‘Sweetie’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One afternoon a couple of months ago, a Cleveland resident, Mary Ann Moore, called to say she had a story idea. Intrigued to learn it was about her cow, “Sweetie,” I laughed and said, “Tell me more.”
Mary Ann said “Sweetie” was an 18-year-old cow who acted more like family than a cow. After listening to Mary Ann for a few minutes, I thought there might be a story in there somewhere, so I agreed to visit.
Looking around the cool remodeled basement of Mary Ann and Eric Moore’s home on Mountain Road, I saw mementos of years gone by, including pictures of Sweetie. I learned ancestors of the Moore family had farmed on Mountain Road since the beginning of the 1900s.
Eric enjoyed life growing up on his family’s small dairy farm and dreamed of owning his own someday. Sharing the workload with three brothers and two sisters, he didn’t even mind milking the cows, baling hay or picking cotton. Perhaps he didn’t mind the work so much because he knew afterwards they would also share in the fun.
Eric’s dream finally came true when he and Mary Ann bought land and began farming next door to his mom and dad, Boyce and Mary Moore. As the years went by, finding it more and more difficult to make a living selling beef cattle, Eric went to work at Freightliner Trucks in Cleveland.
“With the economy and the growing number of farm corporations, it’s even harder for small farmers to make a living now than it was 20 years ago,” Eric said, “so I had to find other ways to fill in the gaps.”
Since retiring last year, Eric has enjoyed getting back to the land he loves.
After we had talked for a while, Mary Ann began to explain about “Sweetie.”
“We have about 150 beef cows on the farm, so it’s not unusual for one of the cows to have a baby at any given time, but Sweetie’s birth was unusual because her mom was a young heifer,” Mary Ann said. Six-month-old heifers generally don’t get pregnant, but because she was given to the Moores as a gift, no one suspected until it was too late. Holding out little or no hope for the premature baby calf born without hair and not weighing very much, veterinarian Dr. Rhod Lowe said it would take a miracle for her to survive.
Although Eric believes in miracles, he says it wasn’t a miracle that kept Sweetie alive, but Mary Ann’s mothering that did the trick. He believes Mary Ann willed that calf to live, bottle feeding her for months.
Giving her the name, “Sweetie,” because that’s exactly what she is, Mary Ann said, “Through the years she’s been more than just a cow, she’s almost like one of our family. She interacts with Eric and me when we’re outside and if I’m mowing, Sweetie walks alongside the fence wanting me to throw grass her way. When I call her by name, she always turns to look.”
Not only beating the odds of surviving when born, Sweetie has beat the odds in other ways too. Most cows usually have their last calf by the time they are 12 or 13, but Sweetie had her last one at 17. During her lifetime she’s had three sets of twins, along with 11 single births for a total of 17 calves. Now at the ripe old age of 18, Mary Ann said they let her roam freely, enjoying life. Pretty much the only rule they have for Sweetie is she can’t go near the bull.
Laughing at that bit of humor, before leaving that day, I learned not only about Eric’s family and “Sweetie,” but Mary Ann’s family as well. After hearing she grew up on Sherrills Ford Road and that her parents were Junior and Mary Lou Link, I said, “You’re kidding.” Surprised, Mary Ann looked at me and said, “Did you know them?”
I then explained I met Junior about six years ago when I began buying vegetables from him in the summertime at his house on Sherrills Ford Road. I didn’t know his name until one day when I asked and he told me Junior Link. I said my mom used to be friends with a Mrs. Link who lived farther down the road. Junior said, “That was my mom.”
Putting two and two together, I soon realized I knew Junior’s sister, Sis Poston. After sharing that information with him, Junior wanted to know how. I explained when I was a little girl, Sis, her husband, Charles, and their two children, Linda and Donnie, lived next door to my family on Long Ferry Road. Although they lived beside me only until I was 7, I still have fond memories of those years.
Not long after that conversation, I brought Mom up to see Junior. Mom remembered Junior and Mary Lou from years ago, explaining when she went with Sis to visit Mrs. Link, sometimes Junior and Mary Lou would be there. Mom even remembered Mary Lou loved to sew and could make just about anything she wanted to. Although Junior didn’t remember Mom, he said she was right about Mary Lou loving to sew.
As always Junior had a variety of vegetables. After making our purchase, he shared that Mary Lou had Alzheimer’s disease and was getting progressively worse. Although friends and family thought Mary Lou would pass first, unfortunately, the next spring Junior was diagnosed with colon cancer and within a few months was gone.
That summer, not seeing Junior’s vegetables in front of his house, I knew something was wrong. Sure enough, when I asked, I discovered he had passed that spring. It just about broke my heart because although I only saw him in the summer, his was a friendship I looked forward to and miss.
Asking when I could meet Sweetie, I soon learned I’d have to get in my car and drive about a mile down Mountain Road. Mary Ann rode with me and Eric followed in the truck. On the way I enjoyed listening to Mary Ann explain how the land on both sides of the road had been bought or inherited by members of the Moore family going all the way back to the early 1900s.
I almost missed the small dirt road, but made the turn just in time to see about 100 round bales of hay lining the circle drive, forming a horse riding ring for friends and family. Family members Dr. Jay and Meghann Moore are thankful to Eric for not only giving their daughters, Grayce and Kaitlyn, a safe place to ride, but others as well.
Driving on past the bales of hay, I saw ahead the barn and cows. Among those cows was Sweetie. Just as Mary Ann had said, when she heard her name she came running. Well, maybe not running, but walking pretty fast. She did seem sweet and content to get whatever attention or grain was thrown her way.
Although Sweetie may not know it, living on Mountain Road is like a little slice of heaven with nothing but a few houses, farms and pasture land as far as you can see. And, oh yes, peace and quiet, which reminds me of the story, Ferdinand the Bull.
As a child growing up, I loved that story and still do. In case you’re not familiar with Ferdinand, unlike other bulls, he didn’t like fussing and fighting, but wanted instead to enjoy the simple things of life, like sitting under a tree. In the end, Ferdinand, like Sweetie, lived his days out with those he loved and who loved him.
Sweetie, like Ferdinand, not only are you lucky, but you’ve changed lives just by being yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if we all learned that lesson? And you thought this was just a story about a cow.
Dicy McCullough’s books are available at local bookstores, and Barnes and Noble. Contact her at 704-278-4377.