The Former Livestock of Better Farm

Gary Bensky faces off with Bill the Goat in 1973 at Better Farm (main house on left, old barn in background). Photo/CB Bassity.
Former Better Farm resident CB Bassity sent me an e-mail yesterday with some information on the livestock that graced the Farm back in the 70s. It appears the animals frequented the property across the street from the main house, behind where the barn now stands. I'll let him do the talking.

Editor's note: Those of you who have memories of the farm from the 70s will get most of the references; those who don't will simply learn a little more of the history of the space and people:

"Here are all the BF photos we have, all taken one day in the fall of 1973. A little on the cast of characters: The livestock were assembled piecemeal beginning in 1971. We got Goldberry in 1971 as a weaned heifer calf from the Neuroths ("Friendship Farm" on Route 37, Theresa—we nicknamed them the Friendlys):

"Charlotte as a weaned pig the same summer:

"None of us had experience with livestock, so it was all learn-as-you-go. I was struck by the companionship that developed between Charlotte and Goldberry. Each, lacking another of its species, took up with the other in close sisterhood. They roamed together and bedded together, sharing warmth in every kind of weather.

"Little Bill came in some sort of trade with Harold Cole, and was the herd sire for a number of years; he grew an impressive set of horns. That's Gary Bensky facing off with Bill (photo at top). Gary, who precipitated the 226 Prospect St. bust by inadvertently bringing a narc to the place, was a fugitive from the law and had borrowed I.D. from his brother, Ron—thus Ron #1.

There's a Toggenberg doe named Ralph, very much a Type A goat--she was hard-nosed, knew what she wanted from the world, and went for it. Bowse named her:

"We also had a gray, long-haired female cat that Bowse named Putkin, after Vladimir Putkin, a Russian general of some repute. Only Bowse could explain the male tags for female animals. (Are you aware, by the way, that when your folks were married at the Ridgewood Country Club, Bowse filled his pockets with the club's silverware and brought it to the Farm?)

Midnight, a Nubian, was very sensual. She chewed her cud with eyes half-shut and often a rhythmic soft moan; as best I could read it, she took such delight in her cud that she moaned her appreciation.

That's me offering grain from a peanut-butter bucket to Blaze:

Early in the game I took over care for the animals; once Bruce and Susan moved up the road I was the only one with interest. Hank Gibson, the old alcoholic horseman who lived in a tiny trailer on the Hunneyman place, talked me into buying Blaze from him so I could match him with Trouble and have a working team.

Anyone who knew anything about horses would have known better, but I was an easy mark. At some point I tried to sell the two horses (with an eye to buying one true draft horse with the proceeds), but the horse trader Hank brought around could clearly see that Blaze was skittish, and bought only Trouble, the better horse of the two. In early- and mid-20th-century, hogs were known as "mortgage-lifters," so productive and profitable were they.

"In a related sense, for a long time I referred to Charlotte as 'my business partner.' I raised and butchered and sold countless of her offspring; she routinely produced litters of 12 or thereabouts, about twice a year. Feed? Johnny Evans brought carcasses throughout the trapping season—muskrats and beaver mostly; we brought home enormous amounts of yoghurt, cottage cheese, etc. that the Crowleys milk plant trucked to the LaFargeville dump (for being mislabeled or whatever); and when Bruce worked at the egg factory on the Alex Bay road he brought me 5-gallon buckets of broken eggs, the rejected cracked eggs that were tossed. (Bruce and Susan's diet depended so heavily on eggs during that time that he got to the point he couldn't eat one. I think he's since recovered.)

I had to buy grain of course—the Redwood feed store was located behind Tibbles Lumber, the building that sits across from Knorr's—but a natural bounty stretched the bought feed quite well. We typically had way more pumpkins and squash from the garden than we needed. In later years Charlotte developed a taste for chicken. After I dumped her slop twice daily into her feed trough, chickens would jump for the odd bit that landed nearby during Charlotte's eager feeding. You could see the glint in Charlotte's eye when a chicken got close. She'd lunge for the bird and usually got it. I had to enclose the upper part of her pen with wire to keep from losing too many birds.

I hope you guys are doing well.