They’re All Shirleys

Upon returning to our house by the water’s edge in quaint Liscannor, I was happy to see the herd of contented cows romping around. Well, the new calves romp. The massive mothers, or dams, pick up their lazy stride only once in a great while.

As always, I scanned the herd for my darling Lucy and Elsie. Yes, gigantic as they are, they are still darling. I couldn’t quite spot them at first, but I did notice a couple of new girls—both with white faces.

Next stop: Computer: Google. I quickly deduced that we now have a Simmental cow and a Hereford cow in our herd based on the fact that those breeds are known for their white faces. I’d gone so far as to name one of them “Simmi,” due to perfectly matched coloring with the photos and descriptions of Simmentals described on various websites.

The other one I named “Goggles.” Along with her white face and roan coloring, she had big circles of reddish hair surrounding her eyes. No doubt about it. She’s a Hereford!

Two days later, Tommy Mantle pulled up with his bright red Mountfield ride-on mower to tidy up our lawn. He tows the 400-pound mower on his trusty trailer. But I didn’t realize he was here until I heard him cutting some weeds up against our stone wall with his string trimmer, or whatever they call a weed-wacker in County Clare. After that, he mounted the black driver’s seat, and commandeered the mower—actually a lawn tractor complete with a large rear-mounted grass cuttings collector— and began his regular pattern, following the large square perimeter of the expansive back yard.

His circles, or rather, his squares became smaller and smaller, until he mowed down the last daisies in the middle of the lawn. Funny how they call it a garden over here, even though all we have is just grass and buttercups. No flower boxes. No ornamental shrubbery. Just grass. That’s an Irish garden.

Tommy, clad in blue denim overalls with a few wisps of his greying blonde hair sticking out of his trademark white painter’s cap, emptied the grass clippings from the collector down by the Liscannor flagstone wall nearest the sea. This wall is relatively low, but wide enough to make climbing over it difficult, to say the least. I’ve heard Kevin say that having that wall of stacked flags built around the whole property cost as much as the land itself.

The pile is also just a yard from the hairy rock wall bordering our land and the pasture next door where “my” little herd of cows roamed. This way, Tommy could pitch most of the pile over the flagstone wall but also throw some clippings to the cows. The herd heard the mower and sniffed the fresh cut grass and were already moseying over to the wall.

Tommy cut the off engine and that was my signal to run outside to pepper him with questions about the cows.

After catching up on how was his winter, I said, “Tommy, we have some new cows this year —  two with white faces. I wondered if one is a Simmental?”

“No,” he said, pointing to Simmi, “that’s a Shirley.”

“Are you sure?” I asked in surprise. “I read up on her and she looks just like a Simmental. They all have a white face. They come from Switzerland, I think.” I added the “I think” to underscore the fact that I am only a budding cowologist and regard Tommy as the absolute cow expert.

“She’s a Shirley,” Tommy affirmed with a smile.

I pointed to Goggles. “What about the other one with the white face and pigment around her eyes? She’s a Hereford, right?”

“No,” he shook his head said in his gentle voice, “she’s a Shirley too.”

How could this be? There was a distinct difference. Wasn’t there?

What the hell! They’re all Shirleys?

“Tommy, see that huge one out there? I call her Batty because she’s grey and as big as a battleship. Is she a Shirley too?”

With a twinkle in his eye behind his wire rim glasses he nodded, “Yes, she is.”

A Shirley is actually a Charolais. But Tommy calls them Shirley so Shirley they are. This type of continental cattle is thought to have originated in Charolles near the French region of Burgundy.  They are often white or cream colored (like Elsie) but obviously they come in loads of colors, if our herd is all Shirleys.

Why, there is even a black calf but I haven’t worked out who the mother is yet.

Oh well, not to worry. At least now I know that what I have is nothin’ but Shirleys!