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23 - The Cow in the Cellar



from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

A few years ago, a man belonging to this community, Ned Tobin by name, was repairing his house. He had a scaffold built about 15 feet high, and he was up on it. As it was the time of the year that the days are long, August or September, and as he was used to having his "mug up" (as the old folks call it), his wife was getting it ready for him in the kitchen.

Now, they had a cow milking, which they kept at large on their premises. They had plenty of fresh butter and cream. Mrs. Tobin kept her cream out in the cellar, covered in crocks, where it was always cool. Down below in the cellar they kept their vegetables. You could go down by means of a hatch in the floor that could be lifted off. They sometimes kept cabbage on shelves in the upper part of the cellar. On this account, the cow was often fed at the cellar door, and she would watch her chance to get in the cellar. Now it happened that at this time of the year the cellar hatch was left up, in order to allow the cellar to dry out before the year's vegetables were stored away. It also happened that there was a small gate leading to the cellar, which they must always be careful to close in case the cow would get in, but as Mrs. Tobin went to the cellar to get some cream for her husband's "mug up" she unfortunately left open this gate.

She was no more than a minute in the kitchen when she heard a noise. She ran for the cellar, and, sure enough, there was the cow after running in and straight down the cellar hatch. The woman gave a scream, and now it was a scream you may say. Her husband heard it on the scaffold, and he knew by the scream that something awful had happened. He jumped from the scaffold to the ground, scrambled up, ran for the cellar, and landed right down on the cow's back in the hatch. He was going so fast he could not stop. Collecting himself, he grabbed the cow's horns to straighten her twisted neck, but, sorry to day, the poor animal's neck was broken.

The loss of the cow was sorely felt by the Tobin family, but the loss would have been much heavier if Ned Tobin had been killed or badly hurt when he jumped from the scaffold, frightened by his wife's terrific scream. Or if Mrs. Tobin had been hurt when with the force of Mr. Tobin's running into the hatch, she was pushed about four or five feet into the cellar, where she lodged against a barrel and stopped.

She did not know where he went; she did not see his crash-landing in the cellar. Happily, she was going too fast ahead of him, and so was the only one of the three to escape the hatch.



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This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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