I looked over my almanac for February 18th and noticed an item that instantly brought an antique nursery rhyme to mind. The verse was one of the first things I learned in kindergarten class.
Hi diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon,
The little Dog laughed
To see such craft,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.
The event, that took place on today’s date in 1930, happened at the International Air Show at St. Louis, Missouri. Nellie Jay, the “Sky Queen” took to the air aboard a Ford Trimotor airplane. As the craft became airborne, Nellie Jay became a part of aviation history. She was the very first cow to travel in an airplane.
Many world firsts happened aboard the Ford Trimotor that day. Elsworth Bunce of Wisconsin was the first man to milk a cow while flying on an airplane. The promoters of the ostensible publicity stunt for the dairy industry made sure that the milk for Nellie Jay was packaged into cardboard cartons and parachuted to the astonished crowd on the ground. One of the fortunate drinkers of her milk was “Lucky Lindy” himself. Charles Lindbergh was one of the first to be served a glass of the historic beverage.
Industry promoters made sure to have newspaper reporters on board the plane so they could report about “scientific observations” of the effects of air travel on bovine creatures and how she would behave during the flight. Nellie Jay’s mission was “…to blaze a trail for the transportation of livestock by air.”
The cow was treated to cattle feed during her 70+ mile journey from Bismarck, Missouri to St. Louis. The Guernsey was quite productive. She yielded 24 quarts of moo-juice while in flight.
Since the early 1980s, people near Madison, Wisconsin at the Mustard Museum, have celebrated the exploits of Nellie Jay. The bovine fans drink milk, munch on cheeses, talk about cows, and sing a song written by museum curator Barry Levenson. “Bovine Cantata in B flat” is a portion of his opera “Madame Butterfat”. A tale about a financially distressed farmer Brown and his cow. The story is very, very loosely based on the historical flight.
I find it interesting that the nursery rhyme with the leaping cow and the story of Nellie Jay both share in the lyrical art.
Remember, today, to hoist a glass of moo-juice and toast the memory of the pasteurized legend of the pastures.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thanks the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinal” newspaper for some of the background information in this post.