'Kimball Cow' mooo-ved into a special place

Columnist Dan Conradt 's childhood toy has a place of honor in his memories.

Dan Conradt column sig

I spent time with the Kimball Cow again this week.

I didn’t walk it across the floor making “Mooooo!” sounds; that’s fine if you’re a second-grader, but kind of weird if you’re 63 and sitting by yourself in the basement.

I didn’t even take it out of the box this time; just seeing it was enough. Maybe next time.

I was 7 years old, and mom had brought my brothers and me for a weeklong visit to Grandma’s house while dad stayed home to work. Grandma lived in Kimball, Minn.; it was a lot bigger than Rose Creek, but not a big city like Austin.

I remember that trip like it was last week.


It was sweltering, and we had to sleep on Grandma’s living room floor because it was too hot in our bedroom upstairs.

One afternoon my brother ran into the house with a pail full of young green maple tree “helicopters” and asked Grandma if she’d cook them for supper. Mom and Grandma conspired, I learned later, to replace the helicopters with French-cut green beans. My brother looked so proud when they put that serving bowl on the table.

Whenever we heard a train whistle my brothers and I would race outside to wave at the man in the caboose. He always waved back.

Grandma kept a tin filled with mints in her refrigerator; mints taste a lot better when they’re cold.

I missed my dad.

On the last day of our visit we all walked through downtown Kimball and ended up at the hardware store, and mom said she’d buy each of us a toy. The hardware store had an impressive collection of fan belts, nails in metal bins and work gloves, but not much for toys.

And then I found the cow. It wasn’t a cartoonish caricature of a cow, it was a plastic 6-inch model of a real cow.

“I want this!” I told mom. It was either that or a ball peen hammer.


“That’s a nice cow,” she smiled.

We walked back to Grandma’s house, and I mooed the entire way. You can do that when you’re 7.

The next morning, dad arrived to bring us home. If he was annoyed that I mooed for most of the three-hour drive, he didn’t say anything.

Unlike the rest of my childhood toys, the Kimball Cow survived attic cleanings, wet basements and trips to the landfill.

Today, it’s in a box where I keep my special things -- Father’s Day cards from Steven, and cards I’d given my dad. A copy of the invitation Carla and I sent out for our wedding. A smooth rock from a family trip to Lake Superior. A seashell. A handful of fading photographs.

All things that create a nostalgic mélange of joy and melancholy.

I might not open the box again for two years, but I might open it again next week.

It’s always in a place I can get to easily, but even if it gets moved, I’ll be able to find it. It’s the only box in the house with a label on the cover that says “The Kimball Cow.”


Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

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