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Ferne Rawson (Grandma's Dexters)
1923 - 2006

By Julie Butterfield (Daughter of Ferne Rawson)

Ferne Rawson (1923-2006) lived a very full life as a farm wife milking dairy cows and operating farm machinery most of her life. When she was no longer able to milk due to her health, my husband and I kept the dairy cattle going for some time. Ultimately, the cows were sold. For years mom would stare out at the bare lots and yearn to see cows again. Mom spent her last 5 ½ years living with our family, spending time in and out of the hospital for numerous health issues.

One day a DirecTV repairman was at our house and took a liking to mom. He actually called back after he had left our home to tell me about a TV program he knew mom would enjoy. He said turn to Channel 379, the RFD channel. Now my son Dan and his grandma were nearly inseparable. Mom had not been out of the hospital too long when we learned of the RFD channel – Dan would come over and watch TV with his grandma. Not too long after introduction to this channel, the two of them watched a special featuring Maureen McCready and her little Dexter cattle.

The two became fascinated with this small breed of cattle. They watched this special several times and what started out as a “reason for mom not to give up and give her something to look forward to”, the two planned a road trip as soon as mom was up to it. Initially mom just wanted one heifer, that she could spend time with, enjoy and spoil rotten.

When mom was stable and ready for a car ride, the two set out for the Des Moines area as Dan had done some research and knew there was a farm in that area where they could get up close and personal with the enchanting little cows. Now, from where we live, they traveled to Coon Rapids, Iowa to Rick and Macheal Seydel’s house, which is at least a three hour trip to the WEST! By the end of the visit, Rick had mom hooked. Somehow, before the day was over, they had traveled back across the state (all the way) and into Illinois which is EAST of us, found a farm with Dexters for sale, purchased a bull, heifer, young cow and an old cow (which is named Rainbow Hills Miss Ellie and will never leave the farm).

Now, it is a good thing my husband is a kind and good-natured man who, by the way, loved his mother-in-law and would do anything for her. The two told us they had purchased Dexters and they were “just over the border of Illinois”. Kevin was off to retrieve the little cattle mom had purchased. By the way, a point to remember is “just over the border” has different definitions to different people. This was the first of many trips – these two were unstoppable. Kevin threatened to put the vehicle up on bricks and remove the tires. Oh the stories we could share!

Mom so loved showing off her cows to anyone and everyone that would listen. Many Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri breeders visited the farm over the first 2+ years of mom owning Dexters. Absolutely nothing she loved more than talking to a new person or old breeder of these cows. One special moment for her was when Sally Coad and a friend drove up from North Carolina and spent an afternoon as she had purchased some steers from mom and other local breeders. She always looked forward to the next person she could talk to about these great cattle. Amazingly, some of the cattle that she bought initially were not halter trained and some had little if any human contact. Mom spent so much time with the cows, that most would eat from her hand and became super tame over time. It was as though a light had been turned on again in her eyes having cattle around. Mom and Dan spent so many hours on the golf cart just enjoying the cattle.

Mom’s last trip to the hospital was a very tough one for all of us. She had a blockage in her colon which turned out to be cancer. She underwent surgery but her poor deteriorated lungs just would not do the job. After spending seven weeks in the hospital, three weeks in intensive care, there was nothing more that could be done. Mom was drugged and not very responsive but the first set of Dexter twins was born while she was in intensive care. I remember going in and telling her about the twins. Her eyes grew as big as silver dollars as I told her about the twins. She loved her cattle until the end.

Mom passed away August 25th 2006. Between her cattle and Dan’s the herd had grown to 63 head. She was really proud to be a member of the American Dexter Cattle Association, and an ambassador for the breed. While her time with Dexters and the ADCA were short, in the little over 2 plus years, she developed many friendships, and registered over 40 calves.

To those that knew her, she will be sorely missed.

Julie Butterfield
(Daughter of Ferne Rawson)

Pictures of Ferne enjoying the Dexters and Ferne's starter herd


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