On Neff Road: Til the cows come home


Sook (definition):

A call for calves. (Scotland)

A call for cattle. (U.S. Dialectal)

A call for cattle or sheep. (Newfoundland)

“Sook, sook, sook.” Dad stood in the barnyard calling the cows home.

If you are a farm kid, you knew the sounds of calling the animals to the barn. “Soooooey, soooey,” pigs came in. “Shooopeee, shooopeee,” sheep found their way to the barn. Farmers all over the world had their own way of calling the animals home.

Dad called the cows, Cyril called the pigs, and I called the dog and cat. Pretty easy to tell what was being called by the sounds used to call the critters. I decided to do some research on calling cows. What I found was that the roots of calling the cows began with sounds similar to yodeling in the Scandinavian countries. When Dad called, it was more like a melody.

In St. Gallen City in Switzerland, cows are called by “Ho-ah” repeated in varying pitches. Other areas pronounced it as “Hoyah, Hooyah, or Hooah.” Rather like various parts of our country pronounce certain words in different ways. In parts of Norway, herd calling is called kulning. It is indeed similar to yodeling and developed for long-distance sounds that bounce off the mountainsides and echo through the valleys.

Now we cross the ocean. “Bossy” seems to be a common call. “Boss” is from the 18th Century and was sometimes pronounced as “buss” or “buss-calf,” a name given to an unweaned calf. One theory is that “bossy” could have come from Latin bos for an ox or cow. Words came over with our immigrant ancestors.

I ran across one lady in my online search who was from West Virginia. Their call was “Come Bossie, come boss.” Another was “CuBoooosss! Hup!” Hup!” In Michigan, a call was “Kubas kubas, hup hup” thought to be from Dutch heritage. Another from North Carolina was “waaarden-waaarden um-bashay!”

I loved researching this topic. I found recalled memories from farm kids who grew up with those calls echoing across the fields. We all seemed to have the same thought: “If only I could hear it one more time.”

“Sook, sook, sook.” Just one more time, Dad. Just one more time.


By Pamela Loxley Drake

On Neff Road

Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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