This entry may have an error or two in it. Sorry but I had a torn rotator cuff and some other stuff and the surgery has me one-handed. It’s hard to type capital letters, etc. with one hand so what you see may look more like texting than the writing of a former English major. It’s either that or no entry. Try to cope, please. It won’t be forever. (I keep telling myself that!)

Let’s talk about cows in Richmond. Yup, cows, not a neighborhood this time. I’ve been thinking about cows because my cousin was hurt last Sunday in a farming accident in Powhatan and the reaction I got when I explained what happened and asked for prayers was an eye-opener. It never occurred to me that most people these days don’t have a personal relationship with cattle.

I grew up on the family home place in Bon Air and we had cows as well as other farm animals. An early memory is of milk spoiled by its “milk carton” eating onions. I don’t really like milk and, while I can’t attribute that to drinking warm milk or the onion-flavored disaster, it made an impression. Later, my uncle raised beef cattle and I recall the heartbreak of loading our ‘pets’ for market. (I did, however, like playing in the holding pen, which was a great jail or whatever else our games required). Russy the bull stands out in my memories as does the day another cousin had a close encounter of the bull kind. (Run, Bobby, run!) Last week’s scare was far worse. This cousin was knocked down by a cow and trampled or semi-trampled or something. The cows somehow missed stepping on essential parts and he’s recovering. The guardian angel my grandmother swore worked overtime was on duty that day, thank God.

You may be thinking, well, these people live in the country, on farms, so this isn’t too strange. OK…take a look at this picture on Leigh Street in downtown Richmond, VA, and tell me this is a normal urban scene:

Richmond was home to both Southern & Union Stockyards at Hermitage and Leigh Streets in the early 1900’s and Kingan’s Abattoir (slaughterhouse) was a major employer in the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Cattle, hogs and sheep were unloaded from trains or were raised locally and herded to the facility. Sheep raising was so prevalent that the area where Virginia Union is located today was once called Sheep Hill. The book I’m compiling about Jackson Ward & Carver, based on my great-grandfather’s photographs, includes pictures of more street scenes, Kingan employees with pens of hogs and stories of those stockyard days.

In 1924, the Southern Stockyard fire burned, killing 165 horses and one man. I have pictures of that, too as well as the Richmond Times Dispatch article. Other photos depict cows in wagons, cows tied behind wagons and cows, cows, cows. I know it’s hard to imagine Richmond as cow country but it was…not that long ago.

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