Tag Archives: cow

German Local Legend

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Seattle, WA


There’s a mountain range in southern Germany in which, during springtime, there are many waterfalls and fast rivers. There was once a farmer traveling with his cows at the top of the mountain. Suddenly, one of his cows was swept away into the river. He looked for the cow, but couldn’t find it. Later, people further down the mountain suddenly saw the cow shoot out of the waterfall. To this day, whenever you pass by that waterfall, people tell this story, saying, “A cow once shot out of this waterfall.” There’s even a sign about it next to the waterfall!


BW was 10 or 11 when she heard this story. She was a military brat, and when her father was stationed in Germany, the military base she was staying at had a hotel nearby. BW’s family visited and hiked in the mountains during their stay. BW heard this story from a tour guide or a local who knew the area well. She doubts that this was a true story, and thinks it was probably a silly way to encourage people to use caution around waterfalls. She also notes that there were quite a few waterfall caverns in this mountain range, so perhaps this was a way for locals to add lore to a notable geographical landmark.


Legends always have unknown truth value, and often tell us about people’s values and fears. This particular German legend seems “untrue,” but whether or not a cow shooting out of a waterfall is possible isn’t relevant for the area this story belongs to. The inclusion of a farmer and his cows as the main figures of the story are notable, hinting that this area did or does value agriculture and require farming jobs. After all, legends take place in the real past or present, not a fantastical world. More interesting, though, is what’s at the heart of the story: the loss of the farmer’s cow to the waterfall. I believe that this represents the way in which nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable. Weather in the mountains can be harsh, and I imagine that snow, rain, wind, and other conditions would make growing crops and living in a mountain range a difficult endeavor. The farmer’s loss of his cow demonstrates the way in which people trying to live in this mountain range might lose precious resources in unpredictable ways to the climate around them. However, this legend has an amusing end, with the cow returning to fly out of the waterfall. This is a humorous image–cows aren’t supposed to fly out of waterfalls!–and according to BW is used as a fun tidbit. I believe that this is a way for residents of this German mountain range to make light of their fears about nature and loss. The possibility of losing precious resources without warning is scary, but this legend makes it seem less so. Additionally, the potential survival and return of the cow from the waterfall is hopeful, implying that the residents of this mountain range want to stay optimistic even in the midst of hard times.

Irish Proverb


“You cannot make a silk purse out of a cow’s ear”


This proverb was told to my informant by his Irish mother when he was a child, in regards to a poor job he did after completing his chores. The proverb itself speaks to how low-quality material cannot present itself to be more than it is, and cannot mask its inferiorities. So when my informant did a poor job doing his chores, his mother reprimanded him using this proverb to express that a half-assed cleaning job won’t make the stove look like a brand new model. With my informant’s parents being Irish, they communicated to my informant that it was an Irish proverb that they had heard growing up as well. My informant spoke of it as being typical of the “even-headedness of the Irish” and their “hard work ethic.”


I found this proverb to be quite interesting and humorous, and I agreed with my informant that to my knowledge it seemed very reminiscent of the Irish spirit. When looking for other examples of this proverb in use, I found that nearly everywhere else the word “cow” is actually replaced with “sow.” I found this rather funny, and wondered if it were my informant’s parents erroneously using the wrong word or my father hearing the proverb incorrectly. Either way though, the message of the proverb is quite clear and timeless.

Another reference to this proverb:

“Dictionary.com.” Www.dictionary.com, 2016, www.dictionary.com/browse/can-t-make-a-silk-purse-out-of-a-sow-s-ear#:~:text=Be%20unable%20to%20turn%20something,proverb%20in%20the%20mid%2D1500s.. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Heard of a Cow Herd Joke


The following piece was collected from a fifty-two year old Caucasian man from Chicago, Illinois. The man will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “I’ve got a joke.”

Collector: “Let’s hear it.”

Informant: “So two guys are driving by a pasture. And one guy says, ‘Hey, look! A bunch of cows!’

The other guy says, ‘Not bunch, herd.’

‘Heard of what?’

‘Herd of cows!’

‘Of course I’ve heard of cows.’

‘No, no, no. A cow herd.’

‘What do I care what a cow heard? I don’t have any secrets from a cow.’


The Informant told me that a lawyer friend of his from Chicago told him that joke once when they had to travel to Springfield, IL together. The Informant relayed the “good laugh” they had about it on the dreary drive down. He remembers the joke almost every time he sees a herd of cows in a pasture. He believes it be at first just a funny joke about a miscommunication. But upon a second look, one that got a greater laugh between the two lawyers who shared the joke, they found more humor in it because of their profession where words mean everything.


            At first glance, this joke is one to get a quick laugh, something to chuckle about when passing fields full of cows. But I agree with the Informant that one’s profession, his being a lawyer, can make the joke seem funnier. I believe that the Informant and his friend found the joke to be funnier when looked at through the lens of the law. When doing so, because of their profession, the joke reaffirmed for them the belief that words carry a lot of weight and they have their own power. Even when told in a corny joke, the punch line is a misunderstanding of words, something that happens on a larger and more impactful scale everyday.

Becoming A Cow

Main Text

Subject: When I was little my mom told me that if you—this is like the whole story. My mom was like, oh, if you lie down after you eat, you turn into a cow.


The subject is a 20-year-old Korean-American student at USC. She remembers her mother telling her this folk belief from the very beginning of her memory, and estimates she was probably four when she first heard it.


The subject’s mother told this folk belief to the subject, once when she was lying down on the couch after eating lunch or dinner. Her initial reaction was not wanting to be a cow. For several months, she was also convinced that the folk belief was true. She worked very hard to avoid the fate, while also attempting to convince her younger brother to test the folk belief out, before she eventually tried to test the folk belief out herself, after convincing herself that it was “not bad to be a cow.” Upon testing the folk belief out, she “was so scammed.”

The subject confronted her mother after discovering the falsity of the folk belief, recalling that she was “very accusatory.” The confrontation devolved into her mother questioning her why she would want to be a cow. The four-year-old subject argued that being a cow meant an easy lifestyle, because cows just had to sit in the backyard and eat grass all day. Her mother asked her if she knew that their family ate the meat of cows. The subject then countered that she would have lived a good life for a worthy cause. Her mother accepted this and ceased the debate.

Despite having discovered that the folk belief false, the subject still felt uneasy about lying down after eating, and still took folk beliefs from her mother seriously. She felt that even if the folk beliefs were not factually true, they were still “a little more true” since they were supposedly passed down from her grandmother to her mother.

Interviewer’s Analysis

Bizarrely enough, this is a case where the subject transformed a folk belief that had been “proven” untrue, into a “true” superstition. The subject derived her superstitious beliefs, seemingly from the folkloric origin of the belief itself. She seemed to believe that there was a mystical power inherent in the act of passing information down through generations. One could argue that this is a highly abstract form of contact magic, where information “touched” by what was considered truth in past generations, will transfer as the information continues to be passed down the family line. One could also argue that the subject probably derived her superstitious beliefs from romanticized visions of the folk as a “primitive” people with “primal” knowledge.

Cow Lick Tea

What is being performed?
DA: I don’t do a lot of folk things when I’m sick but my grandmother used to make this thing
called “cow lick tea.”
AA: What is “cow lick tea?”
DA: It’s absolutely disgusting but basically it’s tea with cow droppings in it
AA: Why cow droppings?
DA: I think it’s because cows eat grass so their droppings are really good for you
AA: Have you ever had it?
DA: God no, but my grandmother would always insist and I think she drank it herself

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
AA: Why do you know about “cow lick tea?”
DA: My grandmother but I haven’t really heard it from other people
AA: Where is your grandmother from?
DA: She’s from Marshall Texas but she also has Native American Cherokee roots.
AA: What does it mean to you?
DA: It’s gross and I’ll never make it, but I guess it’s interesting.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
“Cow lick tea” is used to alleviate the symptoms of sore throats, headaches, and other head
colds. It is known for clearing nasal passages and is made from cow droppings. It is given to
anyone of any age looking to relieve themselves from the common cold.

This is something I have never heard of before but think could be gross. I accept, however, that
I’ve grown up in the city my whole life and have no knowledge about how cows can be
beneficial to humans. I think this is interesting but don’t think I’ll be partaking.