For a few days, I had a copy of the March 3, 1949 “cow edition” of The Yukon Sun on my desk after a reader dropped it off at The Yukon Progress office. Yukon’s Robert Cox had seen our Feb. 20th coverage commemorating the 70th anniversary of Grady the Cow getting stuck in farmer Bill Mach’s silo and thought we’d be interested.
Although I’ve been in Yukon for most of the past three decades, I really didn’t realize how much the story of the six-year-old cow gripped the country back in 1949. Reading the yellowed-Yukon Sun cow edition was like taking a walk down memory lane when life was a lot simpler … and Yukon was a lot smaller.
“It’s been said that 75 percent of the nation’s newspapers had Grady’s rescue as their headlines when she got out of the silo,” said Yukon author Una Belle Townsend, who wrote a children’s book titled “Grady’s In the Silo”.
Grady the Cow’s ordeal made national news and put Yukon, Oklahoma “on the map” in February and March 1949. The story of the trapped 1,200-pound Hereford cow intrigued people from across the U.S., the Boston Post reported. Grady’s rescue after five days in the silo made headlines (even in large newspapers) from coast to coast.
The New York Times declared, “Grady the Cow, Captive in Silo, Saved; Grease and Brawn Overcome Tight Exit.” Here’s how the Chicago Herald-American titled their coverage: “Slick Trick – Cow’s Free; Rescued From Silo Prison.” The Birmingham (Ala.) News announced, “How Now Brown Cow? Drops, Push-Pull, Grease Frees Bovine.” Not to be outdone, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette announced, “Bossy’s Contented In Silo Prison.”
Bill and Alyne Mach received hundreds of calls and telegrams from across the U.S. suggesting ways to free their valuable bovine. It took the farm editor of The Denver Post who came up with a solution that involved plenty of axle grease and manpower.
Notable Yukon physician Dr. Leroy Goodman chaired a “Citizens Committee to Put Cow Back in the Silo,” if you can believe that one. The Yukon Lions Club, which apparently had much influence 70 years ago, voted unanimously at their regular meeting to back the committee’s effort.
Mayor Tye Bledsoe (the park’s namesake) believed the city council should maintain a “hands-off” policy in this matter while two councilmen, Jean Phillips and L.B. Warren, called for all-out cooperation with the citizens’ committee and Lions Club.
Bill Mach wasn’t going to risk another animal, though, advising the committee of prominent citizens that he was willing to furnish the silo but they’d have to find their own cow.
“The wear and tear is too tough on a good cow,” he said. “Besides I’ve had enough publicity to last me from now on.”
Dr. L.J. Crump, a veterinarian who aided in the rescue of Mach’s cow, called the committee’s effort just a publicity stunt.
News travels much faster nowadays thanks to the Internet and social media. Yet it was interesting for me to see how far the story of a cow being stuck in a silo in the middle of Oklahoma reached such a wide audience in a relatively short amount of time … starting with local coverage in The Yukon Sun.
Back then, the best way to get word to someone was often by telegram. And did Bill Mach receive some interesting telegrams during the five days Grady was trapped in his silo!
Noble L. Freeman, an attorney from Lawrenceburg, Tenn., thought the solution was easy: “Dig under silo. Simple.”
Another suggestion came from Los Angeles, Calif. resident Meredith Wilson: “Starve her for a couple of days and out she’ll come. You can fatten her up later on Jello.”
John Mailho of Berkley, Calif., suggested, “Give cow sedative, grease silo opening, ease bossy out frontwards.”
C.F. Work of Portland, Me., shared his advice: “Bring attractive bull near silo. Problem solved. No charge.”
Bruce Manning and Joe Davis of the Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution wrote to Bill Mach: “Why don’t you try this scheme to get your cow out: Get vet the drug the beast, then you will be able to fold her in whatever shape necessary to move her back through the hole whence she entered. If you use this scheme, please wire us collect.”
Grady the Cow died in July 1961 at age 18. Her owner, Bill Mach, passed away in March 1995 at the age of 89.
Bill’s wife Alyne Mach, who he married in October 1946, passed away in December 2007 at the age of 87.
Alyne Mach lived 10 years after that famous silo was torn down in December 1997 to make way for future development south of Interstate 40. Integris Canadian Valley Hospital now stands on the former Mach farm site.
Interestingly, another Yukon story (with a less happy ending) that drew similar widespread national attention as Grady the Cow involved the Yukon hospital.
That occurred 10 years ago, in fall 2009, when Garth Brooks sued the hospital for breach of contract after he donated $500,000 in exchange for naming rights to a hospital building in honor of his late mother Colleen.
In a January 2012 jury trial, the country music legend won a $1 million judgment including $500,000 in punitive damages.