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Cow Boy: 1939

Cow Boy: 1939

September 1939. "Son of dairy farmer. Dakota County, Minnesota." Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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I used

To generate an image combined with sunflowers. Looks appropriate to me.

[I'm pretty sure those are daisies! - Dave]

Grass toothpicks

I frequently had a Timothy stem in my mouth as a kid, this boy has something different though. I learned it by imitation from grandpa and liked the brief, sweet taste. He told me about a few other types that offered a different taste, often bitter but I've forgotten most of them. Sometimes I used it used the stems as a toothpick for the goofy gap in my front teeth.

On chewing grass

It's worth noting that when you pull a blade of grass, the white part at the base is slightly sweet, and when you enjoy that, even the more bitter part is actually kind of tasty. Boy Scouts are taught this as a survival tactic.

Chewing on ... whatever

Our grandson loves chewing on Oxalis stems.
Very sour, but somehow attractive...

Look close, a Talon zipper

Talon Zipper is a company founded in 1893, originally as the Universal Fastener Company, in Chicago. They later moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, and finally to Meadville, Pennsylvania. It was in Meadville that the zipper as we know it was invented, until then they were producing hookless fasteners for boots and shoes. Here, the zipper was mass-produced beginning in the 1920s.

Pastures aplenty

Before suburban sprawl made Dakota County Minnesota’s third-most populous county, dairy reigned. As Alistair Cooke of the BBC wrote when touring America three years after Rothstein’s photo was taken, “for thirty miles north of Faribault, you swing over wonderful dairy pastures where every prospect pleases and the land seems abundantly able to answer any call the Army or the government could make on it. Intermittent stands of maples and oaks are just so much pleasing decoration to sweeping acres that fatten sleep Holsteins for the butter and cream market. . . . You follow the Cannon River for a while, and at Farmington they are so indisposed to launch into sales talks that you have to wring from a member of the Milk Producer’s Cooperative the astounding fact that this small town of about 1,500 souls receives every day a quarter-million pounds of milk.” (Cooke, “The American Home Front: 1941-1942” at p. 254.)

Farm Life

My mom was a child of a farmer in Wisconsin during the Depression. She says even though they didn't have much money they never went hungry, unlike my city kid dad, who knew what it was like to go without meals.

Chewing on Grass

I'm not sure where the practice of sticking some sort of grass or straw stem in the mouth and chewing on it came from but obviously Manhattanite Rothstein thinks it enhances the rural feel. We had farms for 40+ years and yes, I tried it once or twice very early on. Foxtail tastes bitter and I never saw anyone do it but a citified greenhorn visiting the farm.

The eyes

Wow. Definitely one of the best photos I've seen on this site. And there are a lot of "best" photos.

The overalls seem to be the same brand as the one here: Photo is also by Arthur Rothstein.

Whatever happened to Cowden? Couldn't find much other than they might have gone out of business around 1948.

[Scroll down! - Dave]

Yup, was actually submitting this one for posting before the answer was up.

Re chewing on grass (bwayne), don't know what it was but as a kid, some of us did that. I didn't like the taste of it, so I was not one of them constantly doing it. More recent years, kids I know would do. Haven't got a clue, though, as to what kind of fodder it was. Don't think it is anything that will ever stop.

Cowden Bit the Dust

The Cowden Manufacturing Company, of Lexington, KY, manufacturer of men's and boy's clothing, was bought by Interco in 1964. Eventually, Interco wound down its clothing operations, and Cowden was no more. See more here.

Mud in his eye

I see a man in a hat with a bulky coat reflected in the boy's eye. Pareidolia or Rothstein?

Separating the sheep from the goats

It takes a photo like this bit of agricultural magnificence to separate the hack photogs from the truly greats. Thank you, Arthur Rothstein. No one could've done this better.

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