Porterville Recorder

Hilltop Mothers


The hilltop where I live has many resident mothers, has had many in the past, and will most assuredly have more in the future. Because I have a small herd of cows and one somewhat infamous bull, it’s only logical to expect baby calves to show up in due time. The only way to have baby calves is to have the cows become mothers.

However, it’s vital to recognize the two-legged mothers first. The first human mother I want to recognize is no longer on my hilltop. Sharon, my beautiful blond wife of more than 54 years, was indeed the matriarch of the hilltop. She first became a mother to Ryan in 1987, then Louis in 1989, and finally Justin in 1971. Sadly, my three men and I had to say goodbye to Sharon a little more than 31 months ago. Her memory will always be a significan­t part of this hilltop.

Sharon loved having four-footed animals surround our home. A sturdy fence all around the hilltop, plus cattleguar­ds in the driveway, allow the cattle and horses to graze on the pasturelan­d surroundin­g the house. This was a delight to Sharon. Having been raised a “city-girl,” marrying me and living on a working cattle ranch was a new experience. Even after the ranch sold we continued to graze our remaining cattle in the fields surroundin­g our hilltop.

This led to Sharon having interestin­g relationsh­ips with various members of the cow herd. A memorable relationsh­ip was with Spirit. Her mother had twins, ultimately refusing to accept her second calf. Spirit became a bottle baby

and grew up around our hilltop giving Sharon great pleasure. Sharon’s greatest enjoyment came from an old horned cow we dubbed, disregardi­ng any creativity, “Old Momma.” This aging cow must have had poor teeth, shortened over the years from so many thousands of blades of grass. Even though she had free range grazing, plus a daily ration of alfalfa hay during the winter, her hip bones stuck out and she looked quite angular. Sharon saw this, and appealed to me to let her supplement Old Momma to help her raise the calf she was nursing.

When we poured the grain into her rubber pan, Sharon then had time to talk to the old cow while she ate. She also noticed the aging eyes were watery. In Sharon’s opinion, the cow’s face would look better if her eyes were wiped clean. The human momma appealed to me to allow her to wipe the bovine momma’s face. I assured Sharon this was an old range cow, and that wasn’t going to happen, Sharon soon convinced Old Momma to allow a bit of eye-wiping.

Old Momma was aging, and one of Sharon’s last requests was, “Old Momma deserves to stay on this ranch the rest of her life.” She did.

Today, the cows in my herd continue to become mothers, and bring calves for us to enjoy around the hilltop. Big Red recently brought us a bouncing pair of red twin calves. Little Red also had a red calf about the same time, and my Charolais cow had the gray/white calf. These four calves, all nearly the same age, are often seen playing and exploring together. Meanwhile, their mothers are all busily eating grass in order to provide milk for their hungry babes.

Another lady who lived on this hilltop was my mother, Gladys Gill. She was raised in Montana, moved to California and married my father, a local cattle rancher. Their first home was in the valley surroundin­g Deer Creek, east of Terra Bella. Wanting to expand their cattle business, they bought this hilltop in 1929, where they moved with their infant son, my brother Dale.

The deed for the house, barn and 1,500 acres of foothill range, was recorded and dated December 29, 1929. I’ve always marveled at this timing, for it was barely two months after the great stock market crash when people threw themselves out of tall buildings in New York. I’ve decided my parents were either a bit crazy, or they actually knew what they were doing. However, with my mother’s unflagging support and help, Dale’s help as he grew up, as well as mine when I got old enough, Mother and Dad made it work.

My mother and I were often at odds, for the feisty and stubborn little Montana girl had her hands full with her youngest teenage son. Apparently I’ve inherited a liberal dose of her fire and stubbornne­ss. Even so, there was never a question of love and support from my mother, even when we disagreed.

Though they never lived here, both my grandmothe­rs, maternal (Alice L. Allumbaugh) and paternal (Laura Bessie Gill) visited our hilltop. The final ancestral mother to mention is my paternal greatgrand­mother, Eliza Anna Gill. In 1858 she married Levi Gill in Circlevill­e, Ohio. She was 15 years and 9 months of age on her wedding day. She had her first baby at the age of 16 years, 6 months, and 17 days.

She gave birth to 16 children and she and Levi raised 12 to be adults. She spent the next 28 years either pregnant, or with a young child at her side. My grandfathe­r Louis, who married Laura Bessie Kincaid, was her ninth pregnancy and 10th child.

In the summer of 1873, Levi, accompanie­d by eight-year-old Charles and 10-year-old John, rode horseback from Ohio to Yokohl Valley in the foothills of California. That winter Eliza stayed in Ohio with the twins Fred and Will, her namesake, Elizabeth, and my grandfathe­r Louis. The next spring, 1874 Eliza loaded their household goods on the train, and loaded a milk cow in the cattle car to provide milk for Louis. She and the four kids spent the next two weeks riding the old steam train across the northern states to Sacramento. The details of this story of Levi and Eliza will be my fourth book.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO ?? Sharon giving Old Momma her daily ration of grain at the patio gate, plus a loving pat on the head.
CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO Sharon giving Old Momma her daily ration of grain at the patio gate, plus a loving pat on the head.
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