How Now, Brown Cow?

Day 27 - Cow And Calf Watercolor - Doodlewash

When I would spend time on my grandparent’s farm as a kid, the coolest news we could possibly receive was the arrival of a new baby animal. I always thought little calves were the cutest as they looked so incredibly small compared to their gigantic mothers. Of course, by the next trip the baby had disappeared and was replaced with a larger version. At least, that’s what it seemed like to us kids as my grandmother would point to the cow in question. We just looked at one another quizzically, convinced our grandmother had gone completely batty. She explained that the little calf had grown up since our last visit. Our last visit had only been a few months ago, so we were suspicious. If that were possible, we would have already been driving in cars by now. But, we still missed that little calf, just as we would have missed our own childhood had it zoomed forward at a such a pace. Though I’m quite sure there were times our patient mothers felt differently. Our own lives seemed to be moving so slowly back then and we couldn’t wait for the day when we would each grow up as well.

Today, I feel like life is definitely moving at a cow’s pace. Each day feels like it’s zooming along and I look back and wonder where all the time went. So much has changed that I can barely keep up with everything. Perhaps that’s why I like to take little trips back to my past. I remember that slowness and can reconnect with it just a bit. As my mind traveled back this evening, I remembered my mother saying, “how now, brown cow?” as a form of greeting. I had no idea at the time where she’d picked up such a phrase, but it was apparently one used in teaching diction. It’s similar to the “rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” from My Fair Lady, though far shorter and more ridiculous. And it later became a fun way to greet people. The cow phrase, thankfully not the rain in Spain bit. I thought it was fun, even though she was technically referring to me as a cow. But, since I thought cows were rather cute, that felt like a compliment. Greetings like these date back to the time of William Shakespeare, which would have been something more like “how say you now?” These more descriptive phrases, of course, have in modern times been artlessly reduced to “s’up?”

It never occurred to me at the time, but that greeting my mother had used was rather revolutionary. By using it, she wasn’t simply asking what I had been doing, she was asking what I would immediately be doing next. So, my response was always a description of what I was thinking about doing and sometimes even a silly thing that just came to mind. I’ve no idea if she was doing it on purpose, but she taught me to always imagine more than just the moment I had just lived. Though that moment might have seemed perfectly mundane, what fun thing did I have planned to immediately take place next? I grew up always knowing that there was something more interesting waiting for me around the corner, and that’s fueled me through my entire life. Sure, some days are not particularly interesting, but there’s always a next one. And unlike the calf who zooms into adulthood, we have a bit more time to riddle it all out. Our own mothers and fathers have whispered amazing things into our ears and given us gifts of knowledge that we didn’t even realize we’d received at the time. A simple phrase, a casual instruction, and a gentle push in a particular direction. And, I adore the gift my mother gave me in that silly phrase, subtlety asking me to focus on the near future with just a simple, “how now, brown cow?”

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Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Opus (Vivid Pink), Leaf Green, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Click Here!
Day 27 - Cow And Calf Watercolor - Doodlewash
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24 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 7 months ago

    How now brown cow! In a while crocodile! See ya later, alligator! See ya soon ya big baboon! I think animal greetings were all the craze for a while. My father was a font of these sayings as well as other treasures like ‘off like an old dirty shirt’. Maybe this has to do with that feeling of things moving slower. People used to take more time to say things – now half the time they just pronounce the first character of each word. I doubt we actually have more to do – just less patience for doing it.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      hehe… so true! 🙂 If they manage to produce a word at all. Sometimes people talk only in emoticons and gifs with no words at all. I’m always a bit lost in these conversations, never knowing if I’m even supposed to respond!

  2. Sharon Nolfi 7 months ago

    Beautiful portrait of cow and calf! I love babies of any species. How lucky you were to see farm animals as a child!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕Yeah, I always feel so lucky to have had a farm to visit. It one of the best bits of my childhood.

  3. Lisa 7 months ago

    I have a complicated relationship with cows. When I was a first grader riding the bus, one of the high school girls told me I had calf eyes. She meant it as a compliment. I went home crying. LOL! My initials, LC, sounds like Elsie, and Elsie the Cow was the spokescow for Borden Dairy. That delighted the boys no end. We had a few cows on the farmette where I grew up. They were nice, but they were big. But I liked feeding the calves with the bucket that had a nipple on it, and I let them suck my fingers even though they left behind a lot of slime. When the up the road neighbors cows saw me riding past on my bike, they would charge the fence. I was terrified and took to walking a huge circle around them through the field across the driveway. I know now that they were not attacking as I imagined, but hoping I was coming to feed them. See, complicated. When my next door farmer died a few years ago, I no longer had cow living over my back fence. I miss those guys.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      That’s truly a complicated cow relationship… hehe.. and a very fun story! 😃💕 Yeah, being compared to an animal is always a bit strange. And you made me remember that bucket with the nipple on it! lol Calves were definitely my favorite… when they got so big… they were a bit terrifying. Especially to a kid.

  4. Snehlata Maheshwari. 7 months ago

    Beautiful cow n baby lie

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks so much, Snehlata! 😃💕 Glad you liked my little cow and baby!

  5. Fatima Chamkha 7 months ago

    How cute yo cow and calf!!Well done Charlie!!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks so much, Fatima! 😃💕 So happy you enjoyed my little cow duo!

  6. Mary Roff 7 months ago

    Wonderful cows and memories. Whatever happened to all of those funny, colorful old sayings?

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕 I’m with Sandra on the loss of them… just too many words for today’s “busy” society! hehe

  7. Laura Hale 7 months ago

    Adorable doodlewash! I have the blessing of working with elementary kids- pre-k to third grade.If I forget to say see you later alligator when they leave my office, I’m in big trouble. So there’s definitely hope for the future Charlie!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks so much, Laura! 😃💕 And yay! That gives me great hope for the future! hehe… I would have been the same if you started something like that. Fun!

  8. LoriCtoo 7 months ago

    Rise and shine porcupine! I used to say that to my son every morning when I would wake him up. By the time he got to high school, he didn’t appreciate as much. LoL I like to think I made that one up, but I really couldn’t tell you. Baby cows, baby animals are all adorable and so are yours!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Thanks, Lori! 😃💕 Yeah, he’ll appreciate that phrase later on in life very much, I think! It just takes time to remember those fun things you’ve lost as you try so hard to grow past it. 😉

  9. memadtwo 7 months ago

    I remember that phrase…I haven’t heard anyone use it for a long time. Perhaps time for a revival…(K)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      hehe! Yes please! Let’s start it, Kerfe! 😃💕lol I adored this phrase when I was a kid and others like it. I just think it makes for a more colorful world than simply getting some animated clip art in reply. 😉

      • memadtwo 7 months ago

        I’ll try it on my daughters…they already think I’ve gone off the deep end.

        • Author
          Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

          Brilliant! hehe… yeah, I’m the crazy uncle, but I think it’s a fun title. 😉

  10. Naomi Shelton 7 months ago

    I love cows! Your painting of the mamma and baby is the sweetest. I’d hang that on my wall for sure! I have a little collection of cows, some are paintings, photos and various little figurines made of different materials. I think they are beautiful in their bovine way, with their huge, beautiful eyes and soft, wet noses. Such “other” creatures compared to us humans but still sentient in their own way. I grew up on a farm and when I was little we had cows–the black and white holsteins–I used to go wandering in the pasture where they grazed. I was always careful to side-step the cow pies though! Those were magical days. I can still remember the smells of the wildflowers and the sounds of insects buzzing. Idyllic, looking back now.

  11. smzang 7 months ago

    Charlie said, “Our own mothers and fathers have whispered amazing things into our ears and given us gifts of knowledge that we didn’t even realize we’d received at the time. ”

    That is exactly what you do for those who visit your site. I see your painting as a beautiful bow on a wonderful package of wit and wisdom. Thank you again, and again.

    btw, your painting brings back fond memories. That calf looks a lot like my calf named Jasper.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      That’s so sweet of you to say, thanks Sarah! 😃💕 Glad you enjoyed this one. And thrilled this brought back fond memories of your Jasper!

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