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By the Way: The Kintnersville cow


They all called it the Kintnersville cow, and so did I – and now it’s gone. It certainly was not what you would call fine art, but it was there, much bigger than life, for all to enjoy. Not that it could be missed. It covered the side of a barn.

But we didn’t look closely enough. It was actually a bull – and a lot of it – a giant bull painted on an old barn in Nockamixon Township. Neighbors agree that old place was a community treasure.

The barn is one of two set on a hillside in an L-shape and now converted into homes. The bull was a commanding sight on the rural road for at least a century. It occupied the entire side of the smaller barn.

Pam and Bill Shortall have lived in the main stone barn adjacent to the cow barn for 11 years and each year they launched a specific improvement project. “This is the last phase – the siding and the painting of the barn,” said Pam.

The barns are on Ealer Hill Road, named for the W.O. Ealer family who once farmed the land on the steep hillside. The Shortalls, sensitive to their neighbors’ fondness for the landmark, have lived with the remarkable painting until now – although they had intended to remove it when they first moved in.

They’d been planning to take the side of the barn apart in numbered sections so it could be placed on another barn, but when they started work a couple weeks ago they realized the state of the lumber wouldn’t allow it. It was just too rotten underneath to do that.

So now, the cow is gone and the Shortalls have painted the barn white.

“That was the original color,” Pam said. She said she didn’t know how long the painting had been there, but one thing is for sure, a lot of families have lived there with the painting “There were six or seven names on the mailbox,” she said.

Years ago, I interviewed an Army combat artist who owned it at the time. One of our son’s friends lived there later, and I know several other families co-existed with the painting.

John Rimmer, who lives on Ealer Hill Road, said the painting was there when he built his house in 1971. He said, “Marty Cegielski owned it then, and one day the two of us repainted it. It had started to fade and we repainted the whole thing. It was a landmark. We all used it for directions when people were coming to visit.” It was John’s wife, Eileen, who reminded him to tell me it was a bull, not a cow.

Neighbors would tell visitors to drive north on the road until they saw the barn, John said, and then they’d offer directions from there to their own houses.

Gary Williams, who lives on neighboring Chestnut Lane, said he’s sure the barn is at least 100 years old. He said he knows his grandparents lived on the farm. “They didn’t own it. They rented, but I know it was just around the turn of the 20th century – like in 19-0-something,” he said. “My grandfather’s name was William Williams,” he added.

The painting was a reminder of Nockamixon’s and Durham’s rural heritage, a history that has come apart in the recent past. When we moved here in the 1970s and built our house in what I firmly believed was still a bit of a wilderness, there were a lot of dairy farms.

My husband helped one farmer deliver a calf. A bit later when I went to another farm to buy milk, I heard bellowing from the barn. The farmer called me in to watch another mother cow welcome her baby into a suddenly quiet world. I felt privileged to witness that quivering miracle of a wet calf as it struggled to its feet.

There were other advantages to living here as well. In those early winters our road was always plowed by first light. The dairy farmer who lived on our road plowed it himself. He had to get the milk out.

I’m almost sorry that’s all pretty much gone.