Walking along the country roads near my parents’ farmhouse, I decided to stop off at my grandmother’s house. I could see her pruning her peony bushes in the late summer sun. As I walked up to her, the house phone bell rang aloud in the yard and she quickly dropped her shears and headed to the house to answer the phone, all the while unaware that I was near.
Approaching the front door, I waved to my grandfather who was tending to a barrel fire in the backyard. Entering the front door, I heard my grandmother set the phone into its receiver and upon the table I saw a fresh bowl of potato salad wrapped in cellophane. My grandmother saw me from around the kitchen corner and gave her usual hello and then explained to me that my father had just returned from a farm auction.
Apparently, while there, he had the fortune of having the winning bid on a calf and wanted me to come home to see the tiny beast. My grandmother, who was already grabbing her purse, asked that I take the potato salad as both her and my grandfather had already made plans to join our family for dinner that evening.
Loading the car, my grandmother waved to my grandfather, who quickly doused the barrel fire with water and then made his way to the car. Pulling the door handle of the front passenger door, he entered the car and we began to pull out of the drive and head down the road. Along the road we passed an old dilapidated farm.
“You know, that farm reminds me of a story long ago about two men who owned a mill and saved a very special breed of cows,” my grandmother said.
The Tanner Farm was one of the newest farms to come to Donbridge. In all honesty, the Tanners were not really farmers at first. They were actually millers from which all of Donbridge would get their lumber to forge their homes and businesses. The Tanners were known for their crates as well, which were used far and wide by shipping companies who traversed the Atlantic Ocean waters.
One of their prominent buyers was a butcher whom the Tanners knew very well. This butcher admired the Tanners and adored the great valley of Donbridge. One day while talking to John Tanner, the butcher told John that he would make a great farmer one day. John only laughed at the notion and exclaimed that milling was enough for him. The butcher just smiled at John with a kindly expression.
Now it was said that this butcher had a secret. He had a long-standing agreement with a country across the ocean. The story held that a ruler had declared that all red-and-white Holsteins were not the preferred color for the breed and that only black-and-white Holsteins would survive, and so this butcher agreed to aid the monarch by taking in shipments of red-and-white Holsteins to the Americas for slaughter or so the butcher promised.
One day, while the Tanners were milling some oak, a delivery arrived at their shop. John Tanner was stunned to find one of his crates. Intrigued at the delivery, he called his brother over to investigate the occurrence. The crate was clearly stamped “Fragile” and from within the crate, John could hear movement. Curious, the two opened the crate with great haste. Raising the lid, they peered inside to find a baby red-and-white calf. Astonished, the Tanner boys decided to keep the animal and built a small home for it from the parts of the crate.
A week later, two more crates arrived at the Tanners’ mill and inside each crate two more calves were munching on hay. By the end of the first year, the Tanners had nearly 100 calves on their property. Over time, the crates slowed with the passing of the American Revolution and the Tanners herd reached nearly 200 red-and-white Holsteins. But in all that time, the butcher never visited Donbridge again and when the Tanners asked of his whereabouts, no one other than the Tanners had ever heard of such a man nor seen the likes of the described butcher.
As the years passed, the cows’ numbers were so large that John and Robert could often be seen ushering the cows from one end of Donbridge to the other for thick pastures. Time passed and the Tanner Mill slowly went out of operation as the Tanners officially became farmers in the great valley of Donbridge.
Just as my grandmother finished her tale, we arrived at my parent’s house. I unloaded the car and brought the potato salad into the house. My grandfather and grandmother headed to the barn to see the newly won addition to our farm. Running out of the side porch, I caught up with them. Entering the barn, the dim lights were on and there my father and mother stood outside of the calf pen. Nestled below the thick hay was a red-and-white Holstein calf with a small collar around its neck that read Tanner Farm. I looked up to my grandmother who just smiled with her usual assured look.
Picnic Potato Salad
4 large peeled potatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles
2 chopped carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
3/4 cup mayo
2 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. oregano
Chop potatoes and add salt. Blanch them or cook until barely firm. Drain and let cool. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, including the potatoes and stir. Let cool. Top with paprika and serve. Serves 9.