Dakota Datebook

Time on the Farm

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In this hurry up world, the wrist watch is an almost irreplaceable item of jewelry to make sure we are in the right place at the right time, but historically, the wrist watch did not become popular until after World War I. Wrist watches were for the ladies only and no correctly dressed gentleman would be caught with one. The properly dressed gentleman would not be without his pocket watch which he generally carried on a watch fob in a vest pocket. One of these gentlemen was Axel Axelrud, a prominent farmer who raised milk cows along with grain on his Walsh County farm.

On this date in 1906, Mr. Axelrud told a remarkable story of a long lost pocket watch he had recently rediscovered. He was working in the barnyard in 1899 when the weather turned warm so he placed his coat and vest on a nearby fence. In the pocket of the vest was his gold watch.

A calf on the other side of the fence suckled the coat and vest, dislodging the watch, which it promptly swallowed, unbeknownst to Mr. Axelrud. Although he looked diligently for the watch, he never found it and eventually gave up the search. The years went by and the calf grew into a cow and became part of the herd, providing milk for the farm.

After seven years the cow no longer supplied a large enough quantity of milk and it was decided it was time to butcher it. Mr. Axelrud slaughtered the cow and found the watch embedded in its lungs, thereby missing the gastric juices of the stomach. But the story gets better. Because this gold watch was in the narrow chamber of the lungs, the constant breathing of the cow pushed the stem of the watch against the muscle, thus winding the watch. Seven years after being inhaled by the calf, the watch was still running, and, unbelievably, Mr. Axelrud stated that his gold watch had only lost four minutes.

As for the Walsh County dairy cow having its own internalized time piece, it was probably one cow which was never late for milking.

The Milton Globe November 15, 1906

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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