When Richard and Rozann Hansford moved from Timonium to White Hall in 1993, Rozann had a simple request. She wanted to look out over their 10 acres and see cows grazing on green pastures. Not just any cows. Rozann wanted to gaze upon brown ones.
But neither Hansford had a clue about cows. He was a research scientist with the National Institutes of Health, and she was a cardiac care nurse atJohns Hopkins Hospital.
So they started quizzing new neighbors, local farmers and farm supply store employees about everything from fencing, hay and barns to cows, bulls and veterinarians.
Their successful but sometimes stressful journey from suburbanites to cattle farmers is chronicled in "The Professor and the Brown Cows," a 153-page book written by Richard Hansford and published in late July.
"It's meant to be an honest image of the way things were but it also involves some imagination," said Hansford, 67, a native of Rugby, England. "It's actual and truthful, but I didn't take notes while we were getting the farm going, so the dialogue is a reconstruction of the way it was. It was very therapeutic for me to sit down with a yellow pad of paper and pencil and write about the whole experience."
Hansford uses pseudonyms for characters such as Gary Miller, a White Hall farmer who had dairy cows when the Hansfords were looking for beef cattle.
In the book, he's called Gary Tanner, and his wit and wisdom fill many pages. In fact, the book's cover photo of a farmer and a brown cow in a field is not of Hansford, but Miller. He's holding on to his daughter's prize-winning cow, Fiesta.
"Richard mentioned he was writing a book and I'd say it's pretty accurate. It shows a lot of local color and a lot of local people," Miller said. "I'm actually surprised we became friends. He's a professor and I'm a country boy, but I do value our friendship."
The book begins with Hansford talking about cow fences with Smoke Shaffer, who works at the Mill at Black Horse in White Hall.
"Don't do it," Smoke told him and advised Hansford to erect plywood cutouts of cows instead of buying the real thing. It's much easier that way, he said.
While much of the book focuses on the beef cattle operation, Hansford also spins tales about their life with four teenagers, several Irish wolfhounds, a golden retriever and two goats.
This is the fourth book Hansford has written. He authored two novels and another non-fiction book that recalls sailing adventures with his father.
The Hansfords' 6-year bovine business ended in 1999 when they sold the farm after he was hired to teach at a medical school in the Caribbean island of Grenada. They moved back to White Hall in 2006, but to a smaller property.
This time around, they're simply happy to gaze out at their two dogs romping in the backyard.
"The Professor and the Brown Cows" is available for $13.95 at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.