Getting the Cows to Pull the Plow

When my husband Bill and I travelled to Sweden this fall, we were fortunate to connect with his second cousin, Bert. Their grandfathers were brothers. (I wrote about this in a blog posting entitled “Genealogy Road Trip.” Bert’s grandfather, Gustaf Wilhelm, was born in 1855.  Bill’s grandfather, Anders Ludvig, was born in 1865.)

For Christmas, I wrote about Bill’s Swedish ancestors, and we  printed copies for his sister and her children.  What follows below is a sad but charming story about Bert’s grandfather, who died in 1900 leaving a pregnant wife and six children.

The background for the story – about Göjeholm (the farm where Gustaf Wilhelm and his family lived) – was translated for us from Revesjöbook, a church history:


Gustaf Wilhelm and his wife Anna Maria Karlsdotter moved here in 1897.

They had seven children:

  1. Ida, born 1886.
  2. Emelie Charlotta, born 1888.
  3. Axel Edvin born 1890.
  4. Selma Elisabeth born 1893.
  5. Dorothea (Thea) Wilhelmina, born 1895.
  6.  Anders Wilgot, born 1897.
  7. Carl Gustaf Valdemar born 1900. He was born three months after his father died.

They had two cows, two pigs, one horse and hens. After Gustaf passed away the widow had to sell the horse and had to use the two cows to furrow. It was a very hard time for Anna but the family managed. The children helped their mother and they even helped other people, e.g. they cleaned the school premises. They never had to go to sleep hungry. They got milk from the two cows, pork from the pigs and they grew potatoes.

Here is Bert’s version of the story with a copy of the illustration drawn by his father, Anders:

“When my grandfather (Gustaf) Wilhelm died in 1900, my grandmother tried to keep the cottage and the small farm. But after a couple years she had to sell the horse. She then decided to set the cows in front of the plow. She herself walked behind the plow, and my father Anders, who was about six years old, held the reins. The cows were not that interested in performing a mission of this kind and did not move at all. Everything was solved by a stroke of genius. Anders’ brother Axel was supplied with a fishing pole and at the end of the string a salted herring was tied. With this attractive scent in front of them, the cows pulled the plow over the entire field. Yes, this is true; Anders himself told this story many times.”

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