Sweet Clover: Beloved Cow Had a Gentle Way with Kids

By MANDY LOCKE

Clover, a docile Brown Swiss cow that lured youngsters to her stall at the agricultural fair for nearly two decades, died in her sleep early Wednesday morning. She was 19.

The Island's only Brown Swiss, Clover - also known as Dairy Queen by those who loved her - came to the Vineyard in December of 1984, at the age of four weeks. Amy Lawry bought her as a birthday gift for her husband, Harold.

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"She was a sweetheart right from the word go. You could do anything with her. If there ever was a lap cow, she would have been it," recalled Mrs. Lawry this week.

Mr. Lawry dabbled with dairy farming in the 1980s, raising about eight milking cows at their Sweetened Water Farm property. But the Island's market for milk dried up when Stephen Potter's Seaside Dairy operation folded, and the Lawrys were forced to sell the herd. All but Clover, that is.

"She was my baby. Clover always stayed," said Mr. Lawry.

Clover spent most of her life grazing the Lawry's Sweetened Water Farm pasture. About three years ago, Clover moved to Whiting Farm in West Tisbury after the Lawrys sold their Edgartown property. She lived out her final years mothering an adopted white calf and butting heads with one of Alan Whiting's rams.

"Once a cow's past her prime like Clover, she's a hobby. Clover was a great manure maker. She was easy to look at and easy natured," said Mr. Whiting, who said he became quite fond of Clover.

Each afternoon at Whiting Farm, when she would hear Mr. Lawry's R.M. Packer fuel truck rounding the bend by the cemetery, Clover would saunter to the edge of field for an apple and a head-scratch.

Clover was a star of the annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair. The Lawrys have a bucket full of blue ribbons to prove it.

"She lived for those three days," said Mrs. Lawry.

Clover is likely the most photographed fair animal. A picture of her licking a calf behind his ear made it onto the cover of a New England Agricultural calendar a few years ago. And when former president Bill Clinton came to the fair in 1992, he paused in front of Clover's stall, laying hands on the Brown Swiss. The moment was captured by several newspaper photographers.

At the fair, she claimed her usual stall - dead center in the livestock barn - and waited for the children. Clover's sheer bulk - she weighed nearly 1,600 pounds - frightened some of the youngest children. But Clover would stick her head between the rails, beckoning them back to pet her. Clover was fond of children and even let the Lawry kids ride her bareback at Sweetened Water Farm.

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Clover raised more than a dozen calves, but only one purebred Brown Swiss. Clover also became surrogate mother to a few others during her 19-year life. When the late Fred Fisher had a motherless young heifer, Clover took her on, nursing both the heifer and a calf of her own. Clover, Mrs. Lawry said, was keenly aware that her own calf, Buck, was much larger than the orphan heifer, Emma. At feeding time, she would stamp her foot to let Buck know it was time to let Emma nurse.

Clover developed a reputation as a bit of an escape artist, Mr. Whiting said. At the age of nine, Clover found her way off the Lawrys' land over to a neighbor's cocktail party.

"She just stood there like she was waiting to be served. I think the guests just thought she was part of the party," said Mrs. Lawry. She came back home after not being offered any hors d'oeuvres.

Clover hadn't been herself earlier this week, Mr. Whiting said. She failed to meet him by the trough for her daily feed. A veterinarian discovered a heart murmur on Tuesday. A virus had set in around her heart.

She died the next day. Mr. Whiting said she did not appear to suffer.

The Lawry family will be burying her on Whiting Farm later this week. The Lawrys' son is making a gravestone with a clover symbol.

"Not many cows get a gravestone, but she was like our family pet," said Mrs. Lawry.