Shoveling Cow Manure – my valuable life lessons!

“Cow manure, also known as cow dung, is the waste product, undigested residue of plant matter which is passed through the cow’s gut. It is rich in minerals and has multiple purposes.” 

As repulsive as that definition may be to you, pinch your nose and read on for now, okay?

These days, I meet lots and lots of new people. Admittedly, remembering their names from one day to the next – and sometimes one minute to the next – is something I continue to struggle with. And don’t you dare ask me to remember passwords.

But the intriguing thing about the human mind is that it allows you to recall names, faces and experiences from years, even decades ago. And one can add specific numbers (think GPAs, SAT scores, birthdays) to that list. For yours truly the number “36” is permanently etched in my memory.

You see, other than cutting grass, selling berries and shoveling snow, my first real job during the summer was milking 36 cows twice daily on a dairy farm a half mile from our house. We had to heard cows, twelve at a time, into stalls in the milking house, fill their troughs with grain while “Bun,” who ran the place, detached then removed the milking machines from each cow. 

And often those cows would raise their tails and, eh, “deposit”their muck in the cement trench behind them. When we saw tails go up, we got out of the way. Fast. Our job – my brother and I – was to carry the full milk cannisters across the street, empty them into processors, then return to shovel the manure, dump it into wheel barrels and deposit it into piles behind the barn. Like working in a bakery, we became so use to the smell that we stopped noticing it. 

Now the interesting thing is that I came to love those cows and could distinguish each one by their colors, temperaments and the amount of milk they produced. We grew fond of the caves they birthed and named and watched them grow up as well. Seriously.

Okay, okay my lessons in life? Well, there are several.

First, I learned at an early age the value of hard work, values that I hold to this day. I developed the belief that there was no job beneath me and to respect those who worked on farms, in factories and on assembly lines. They too helped me appreciate the value of hard work.

Lesson number two was learning what one cannot learn in the classroom – the phenomenal workings of the ecosystem and how one system “feeds” another. Simply put in my story is how grass feeds cows that produce milk and dung that fertilizes gardens that produce the vegetables we consume. So, if someone ever tells you that you’ll “full of crap,” well, in a sense you are!

The third lesson was learning to value the individual cow and, by extrapolation, the value of every person as an individual. Just like the cows we fed and cleaned up after back then, human beings come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, races, temperaments and colors – and sometimes we must feed and clean up after them as well.

One more thing: Often when I return home to Virginia, I visit the site of that old farm and pop in on the nearby livestock yard to encounter the “whiff” of manure from cattle unloaded off trucks for auctioning. And you know what, the fresh apple pies baked and served in that stockyard’s cafeteria today taste and smell(like that manure) the same today as it did back them. 

Okay, you’re free to unpinch your nose now.

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Shenandoah Valley Hit,, The Echo World, the Appreciate You Magazine, The Valley Trail and co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at


5 thoughts on “Shoveling Cow Manure – my valuable life lessons!

    First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior
    to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.

    I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Cheers!

  2. I enjoy you because of your entire work on this web site. Kim really loves working on research and it’s obvious why. We all hear all of the lively manner you present invaluable items on your web site and in addition boost contribution from visitors on the article so our daughter is certainly learning a great deal. Take pleasure in the rest of the new year. You’re doing a terrific job.

  3. I would like to express appreciation to the writer for bailing me out of this type of trouble. Right after looking throughout the world wide web and obtaining solutions that were not beneficial, I assumed my entire life was gone. Existing without the presence of answers to the difficulties you have solved through your good report is a serious case, and the ones that could have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t encountered your web site. That expertise and kindness in playing with all areas was important. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not come across such a solution like this. I am able to at this point look forward to my future. Thanks for your time very much for the high quality and sensible help. I won’t hesitate to propose your site to any individual who ought to have care about this topic.

  4. Thanks so much for providing individuals with remarkably special chance to read from this web site. It’s usually so cool and also jam-packed with amusement for me and my office acquaintances to visit the blog more than thrice in a week to find out the newest things you will have. And indeed, we’re usually fulfilled for the magnificent tricks you give. Certain 2 tips in this posting are particularly the best we have all ever had.

  5. I definitely wanted to construct a small note to appreciate you for some of the precious tricks you are placing on this site. My time-consuming internet lookup has at the end of the day been paid with excellent facts and techniques to go over with my company. I ‘d suppose that many of us website visitors actually are definitely endowed to exist in a fantastic website with so many brilliant people with useful hints. I feel rather lucky to have discovered your entire web site and look forward to really more enjoyable moments reading here. Thanks again for all the details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.