in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

Molly (left front) & Bess

Molly,  front & center of course, & her Best Friend Bess


I read this post on a favorite blog of mine, Throwback at Trapper Creek. I enjoyed the post as usual, but I really didn’t think much more of it.  However, it must have been infectious somehow because this morning, as I went about my chores, I found myself thinking hard about bellwether ( a bellwether is a lead animal) cows.

Our first cows were Bess and Molly with their two heifers, Basil and Merry.  When they came to our farm,  we had never known a cow.  Molly was all blustery, showy and beautiful.  She was bossy, loud, photogenic and pretty entertaining most of the time.  Sometimes she was pretty scary too – she has fancy horns and some powerful body language.  We assumed Molly was the Boss cow.

But, as I came to know them better, I realized that it was actually quiet Bess who figured everything out first. Bess didn’t make a big fuss; she just went about her business.  Bess was the one who would watch for me to call for dinner.  Bess always came right away, and when everyone saw her come, they would come too.  That is, once Molly had decided to quit jamming up the works and allow it.

It seems in the world of cows, “Boss” is often just a good show.  While Molly was busy spending her time hogging up the water trough (she’s not even thirsty – geez), bullying and blocking the lower ranking cows and keeping everyone from doing things she was afraid to do,  Bess was spending her time enjoying the summer grass, being a good mother and a good friend.  And let’s not forget the ever-important always being first in line (I’ve never understood the importance of this one, but ask any grade school kid or cow and they’ll tell you – it’s critical). Unlike Molly, Bess wastes no time minding anyone else’s business so she is almost always first for everything important. Know any Mollys?

Since Bess just saw what needed done and did it without any posturing, she was always the first to eat, drink, come in from the rain and to get her choice of bed.  Let’s face it; Bellwethers simply get stuff done. While the rest of us are strutting about looking to be praised for something we did a few days ago, Bellwethers are already finishing up something more.

It was Bess who helped the other cows learn our routine and Bess was the reason Molly would eventually decide to go along with the program.  Amazingly enough, for all her bluster, Molly followed Bess too!  Just don’t ask her to admit it.

Looking around our classrooms and/or places of work, I’m sure we can all spot the “Boss Cow”.   What I was slow to learn is that the Boss Cow isn’t helping anybody get anywhere. She’s a distraction, an obstacle keeping everyone from being simply satisfied and content.  And for some reason, lots of other people believe she’s Boss too.  But the Bellwether isn’t fooled.

I’d love to say I’m a Bellwether, but I fear I’ve actually more often been a Boss Cow.  I really don’t know what pleasure a Boss Cow gets from being one; Bellwethers are happier.

So, I propose three things:

  1. Figure out who’s who: Boss Cow or Bellwether? You might be surprised when you really think about it….
  2. Don’t let the Boss Cow get you off track.  You know what a Boss Cow can’t handle? When you don’t pay them any mind. Give it a try.
  3. Show some appreciation for the Bellwethers you know.  They aren’t the fancy, flashy ones, but they are the ones who make it all happen.  If you’re going to follow someone, follow a Bellwether.

So, if you really want to be the change you’d like to see in the world, be a Bellwether.

Our sweet bellwether leads in the gang. No surprise here: her name is really Success!

5 thoughts on “in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

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