Author Peggy Reiff Miller spoke in chapel today about her children’s book The Seagoing Cowboy and explained how the story depicts the role of the Heifer Project in post-war Europe.

The Seagoing Cowboy tells the story of two young men who care for livestock bound for Poland after World War II. They are among the first to make the transatlantic voyage sponsored by the Heifer Project. The boys arrive to find a country in ruins, but the horses and heifers they have brought will help these people rebuild their lives.

Although it is a work of historical fiction, the book explains the mission of the Heifer Project, an organization that works to build self-sufficiency in families in need by distributing animals and providing training in animal husbandry. The Heifer Project was the brainchild of Dan West, who decided the best way to help European countries devastated by war was not to provide them with individual meals, but to provide the livestock that would help them survive and thrive. For example, he wanted them to not just have a cup of milk, but a cow to provide milk long-term.

The Heifer Project began sending animals to Europe on ships in 1945. They were tended by “seagoing cowboys” from all walks of life who cared for the animals on the long ocean journey. Today the organization, known as Heifer International, still works to eradicate poverty and hunger by distributing animals to the needy.

Our elementary school faculty and students were inspired by this idea and decided to purchase animals for Heifer International. Like the seagoing cowboys before them, they will be helping families by providing rabbits, water buffalo, goats, and possibly even some chicks and bees. Individual elementary classes raised funds to purchase the animals and the entire elementary took part in a jeans day fundraiser to provide additional money for the project.Heifer International will match the funds and double the number of animals purchased by our students.

And wouldn’t you know? There is a DC connection to this story! Not only is author Peggy Reiff Miller the granddaughter of a seagoing cowboy – two DC students, Ben and Ethan Speers, are the great-grandsons of seagoing cowboy Ivan Patterson.