Cow Milker’s Assistant

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The man milking the cows often had to content with a cow's tail switching in his face. This device, invented in 1854, was designed not only to secure the tail, but also to eliminate the "wicked, vulgar and ungentlemanly" profanity that inevitably resulted.
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“This little implement will prevent a good deal of swearing. So you see, it has a moral bearing. Notwithstanding the practice is wicked, vulgar and ungentlemanly, a good many persons who milk cows, swear worse than ‘our army did in Flanders,’ when provoked thereto, by a rousing switch in the face with a vigorous cow’s tail.

“It does rather disturb one’s equanimity, especially if the animal has just risen from her bed, where the tail has been recumbent in what certainly will give color and fragrance to the rose; but we should not be willing to jeopardize our veracity by saying that it is either of them in its present form.

“Letters a,a show the part attached to the large cord on the leg, just at the point of the hock: b,b, the jaw (now closed) into which the hair of the tail is inserted; and c,c, the springs by which the other parts are opened.

“We have used it, and find that it answers the purpose for which it was intended most admirably. It is made of brass, is perfectly simple, and will be wanted by all who have not razeed* their cows’ tails.

“The Hon. John M. Ware of Seabrook, N.H., is the inventor of the implement, and, we understand, has secured a patent on it.” FC

*Editor’s Note: The word “razeed,” now rarely used, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “to crop or shorten.” It was sometimes custom in the mid-1800s to shorten the cows’ tails to prevent the problem of “switch in the face.”

This article is taken from the New England Farmer of 1854. It has been reproduced in the original text with notes by Beethovan A. Williams, and provided by the Sharon D. Ansted-Williams Memorial Library, a branch of the National Printers Museum; Beethovan A. Williams, librarian.

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