Cows in need of new homes
LYNDEBOROUGH – Jerry Rand’s cows were something of a town institution: 18 of them, essentially wild, frequently out of their pasture, occasionally annoying the neighbors and the subject of ongoing jokes.
But Rand was also an institution. He purchased his 180-acre farm in 1946, and eventually retired there. He hosted a motorcycle club known as the Throttletwisters, and often spoke of his cross-country trips by bike. There was a YMCA camp for city boys on the property, although there is little left to show for any of that.
Rand died in 2008 at age 91, the holder of the town’s Boston Post Cane. One of his last acts was to donate 170 acres of his property to the Piscataquog Land Conservancy, all of the land between Pettingill Hill Road and Burton Pond. He thought he had made provision for his beloved cows.
"I was with him when they put him in the ambulance to go to the hospital," John Deline said Monday. "He looked at me and said, ‘John, what about my cows?’ I said I’d take care of them."
Rand died on the way to the hospital, and Deline, with several other residents, has been caring for the cows. There are five of them, descendants of the originals, tame and well cared for, mainly at Deline’s expense.
But the owner of the property, Rand’s niece Brenda Matson, of Lunenburg, Mass., has decided she no longer wants the cows on the property.
Deline said she gave no reason. There is no house on the property, and he said she hasn’t indicated that she intends to move there.
Deline, who is known as "Farmer John," and Tom Krapf, of Temple, cleaned up the area after Rand’s death, repaired the barn and fixed the fences. The cows no longer get out, and they are sleek and clean.
Caring for Rand became a neighborhood responsibility as he aged and was unable to care for himself. When his house burned in 1986, neighbors donated a trailer for him. When that became too decrepit for occupancy, neighbor Phil Brooks constructed a weather-tight, one-room cottage. Doris Kelley oversaw his day-to-day welfare, which allowed him to stay in his little house.
Deline and Krapf, with some help from Aaron Brown, had been caring for the cows for more than a year when Rand died.
"I’ve always liked farming and cows," said Deline, 70. He grew up on a farm in Vermont and met Rand in 1998. He lives on Avalon Road, a short distance west of Rand’s.
"I came over once in a while and talked to him," Deline said. "He had great stories. He was writing down his life story."
When told to clear the property of the cows, Deline had the horse barn dragged down the road to his property.
All of the current cows are young. One has had a calf, and it is that calf, named Baby Girl, Deline intends to keep with his own cows. The rest of them – Rosie, Brenda, Heather and Bella – need homes.
"I want them to go places they will be taken care of," he said. "I don’t want to send them to the slaughterhouse."
He has until the end of the month to find homes for them.
"I’m taking the gates," Deline said. "They’re mine."
He indicated the restored cow barn.
"The barn predates the easement," he said. "It’s grandfathered, so it stays."
He also pointed out the pasture he had cleared of stones and kept mowed.
"I’ve tried to make it look nice. I’m doing it for Jerry," Deline said with a sigh.
"This is a real sad day for me. And for Jerry."
For information about the cows, call Deline at 731-5728.