This photo of my mother was taken in 1969 or 1970. When I was a kid, the photo was blown up and displayed over our upright piano. Becky, the Black Angus cow, is ramming my mother in the gut. My mother grew up on a farm, and she showed her prize cattle in state and local fairs. As a result, my siblings and I were appalled that her animal-handling experience could fail her in this moment. And why was my father behind a camera as it happened? My mom always said Becky was just playing, but this explanation seemed unlikely to me as child. When cows eat or want their necks scratched, they swing their big, bony heads up. If you stand too close, you will get whacked in the stomach or under the chin. Calves practice this when they nurse; first they switch their tails, then hit their mothers’ udders by jerking their heads. My mother’s story makes sense now, but it still does not erase the effects of years of speculation which fostered a secret pride in the implications of the image: my mom could take a hit, and she was tough.
Elizabeth Tremante, Artist