A City Girl with County in Her Heart
Words by Brandy Herr
Photography by Shad Ramsey
Fat Cow Studios owner Cindy Cook finds a new way of looking at life when she moves to and from the city to the country.
The town of Granbury offers the best of both worlds to its residents. Those that love the city life are not far from it, and those that enjoy a serene country setting can find that in abundance in this humble Texas town. Cindy Cook, owner of Fat Cow Studios, fully understands the beauty of Granbury, having escaped the city and worked to simplify her life, surrounding herself with her husband, her pets, the wildlife and a bunch of cows.
A native of Asheville, NC, Cook grew up used to the hustle and bustle of the city. Even today, she can’t escape the city with her job as a graphic drafter with the Federal Aviation Administration, a position she has held for 26 years, requires her to commute. But it’s the fresh country air and the magic of nature found on her own front porch that brings her true inspiration.
“I never would have thought I’d be a cattle person,” Cook said. But life has a funny way of working out. Upon marrying her husband Steve, this former vegetarian now spends her days tending to their cows as part of her husband’s family business.
This opportunity to slow down and get in touch with the nature has given Cook new ways of looking at life. In her blog at FatCowStudios.com, Cook describes her favorite daily chore of walking the fence line to check for broken segments, fallen trees that may have snapped the wires or posts that have been pushed over. She believes we can transfer this habit into our everyday lives, that we can learn a lesson about which of our own boundaries we should take down and which we should reinforce.
Though she was raised a city girl, Cook has always held a love of the country in her heart. She credits her parents for instilling her love of nature, saying that her mother was the “original tree hugger.” Her family always made time to vacation in the wilderness, allowing their daughter to become attuned to the world around her. This fascination with the natural world only deepened further when she found herself at a college in the mountains of North Carolina, where she took art classes and learned how the earth could complement her personal values.
Still today, Cook holds true to the influence of her parents. Moments before her mother passed away, she told her daughter, “Life goes by way too fast.” Cook lives each day with that mantra, taking time to enjoy what lies around her. This contributes heavily to the contentment she feels out in the country. Her favorite aspect about living away from the city is the great number of stars she can see in the sky. Her mother once said, “Look at the tip of the moon, and I’ll be there.” In the quiet calm of the night, Cook can look to the heavens and feel united with her mother.
Cindy Cook took the inspiration she received from her family and her circumstance and combined that with her college art training to form Fat Cow Studios, so named because she is enamored with her portly cows. She began with jewelry making and stamping spoons, evidence of which you can see displayed in her booth at local shop, Witherspoon’s Antique Mall. From there, she graduated to photography and her real love, pottery.
Though she has had no formal pottery training other than her college classes, she began to focus on this medium after her husband purchased a wheel, and her sheer love of the work shines through in every piece. Once again, she sees this act as a metaphor for life. You have to manipulate the pottery, really feel it in your hands, and if it doesn’t work out, you simply start over and make something new. She is never completely sure how it will turn out until the project is done, and that’s what she loves about it. Her pottery making is a source of constant discovery.
Another of Cook’s passions involves rescuing found objects from flea markets, estate sales and antique shops to give them new life, yet another hobby inspired by her mother. She and her mother were “junkers before it was cool.” Cook once purchased a dove decoy used in hunting and transformed it into the focal point of her birdcage-themed lamp, turning an object that could be associated with killing into one of beauty. She has a particular fondness for old typewriters with several already in her collection. Old typewriters have a history; someone at one time had typed on them, creating stories. “If it has meaning, I like it. If it doesn’t have meaning, I don’t have any use for it,” Cook said.
Living in the country has allowed Cindy Cook to expand her love of photography. Her blog is filled with images she has captured, most of which come from her own backyard. Her photography lives up to the Fat Cow Studios name, featuring many photos of her beautiful, majestic and sometimes even goofy cows. In her work, you will also find photographs of her other pets, visiting birds and other wildlife that choose to spend a moment on her farm. Cook’s true love of animals really shines through each photographic print.
Cook has been forced to come to terms with the harsh realities of nature associated both with living in the country and with her husband’s cattle business. She admits that the one downfall to country life is getting attached to the wild creatures only for them to disappear at the hands of a roving predator. As well, she has had to accept compromises when it comes to raising cattle. As someone who wants to love everything as a pet, Cook has taken to naming each of their heifers, thus making it impossible for them to be sold. “When you name them, you’ve got to keep them!” she said. She even has a cactus named Ethel.
Cook has trained the cows to accept her love, some of which have even learned to ring the bell on her front gate in search of treats. She credits Temple Grandin, the best-selling author and animal behavior expert, as having a major influence on her views of cattle-raising. The entire experience has given Cook a new outlook on the way we eat and our role in how we treat animals; that if you treat the animals well, they will treat you well in return. She lives her life in the same manner as her herd, taking cues from them. As she wrote in her blog, “I find humor in nature and animals to be inspiring! They really don’t know that the world is in chaos, they choose to find joy.”
Living in the country has irrevocably changed this metropolitan woman. She knows that she could never move back to the city. She prefers to give up the chaos of traffic and crowds, and instead enjoy the feeling of wide open spaces and witnessing the little miracles such as colorful birds and delicate spring flowers. Cook’s simple yet profound philosophy mirrors that which can be commonly found throughout many country towns like Granbury: “Live the best you can, do the best you can, and be kind.”