Chat Rooms, Dial-Up, and the Legend of SarahMcow

Once upon a time it was 1994. A Clinton was in the White House, the Olympics were in Lillehammer, and my family got its first taste of the internet. AOL. Or America Online, as it was known then.

In those days, a single AOL account was only allowed five screen names and there were six members of our family. So Laura and Becky combined forces to become Airmart34 (“mart” for Martin, “34” for being the 3rd and 4th children of the family, and one of them will have to explain the philosophical meaning behind “air”).

But I, 2nd child and therefore recipient of my very own internet identity, thought carefully before choosing: SarahMcow.

I was 11.


That’s me. (And I’m pretty sure that’s the back of my brother’s flat-topped head in the front row.)

That dress? That dress is SarahMcow.

As kids we were all in 4-H. And my project for a few years was Fashion Revue, which was essentially sewing. My Mom is an incredible seamstress and my Grandma before her, so it was only natural that I would grow up learning my way around a sewing machine. That dress was one of the first things I ever made, and since Fashion Revue meant not only sewing but also modeling the sewing project at the county o’rama and hopefully the county fair — my Mom and I deployed the ingenious strategy of choosing an outfit that would both impress the judges with my brilliant sewing skills and leverage any (likely) affinity for the overall atmosphere of 4-H and county fairs.

Yes. It’s tough to see in the early 90s photography, but the fabric of the dress is cows in a pasture.


At the time, I didn’t care one way or the other about cows, but this dress took on a life of its own. It won ribbons at the o’rama and ribbons at the fair, and before I knew it cows had started to become my “thing”. Every self-respecting girl between the ages of 7 and 15 collects SOMETHING. Unicorns, angels, clowns, Lisa Frank. I found myself collecting cows. Specifically, Holstein cows. (For all you non-4-H kids out there, that’s “the black and white ones”.)

So the above photo was in the Fall of 1993. By the time I needed an AOL screen name the next year, the cow thing was full-blown. Fun Fact: The M (for Martin) was only added after my first choice, Sarahcow, was already taken. Naturally, I befriended Sarahcow and we were Instant Messaging BFFs for awhile before I’m sure she updated her name to something more mature and less ridiculous like everyone else has over the years.

As my friends evolved from AOL and GeoCities to Gmail and WordPress, their internet handles evolved along with them. But I stuck with SarahMcow. So yep, until #tcoyos got into me recently, I hinged my entire cyber identity on a dress I made in 4-H as a tween. In a closet somewhere in San Antonio, I’m sure my Mom still has the dress and according to there are actually a few tiny corners of the internet where I HAVEN’T planted the SarahMcow flag. I’ve shifted to, but until the boundless magic of the internet invents a “find and replace” feature, SarahMcow will still be with us.

There you have it. For all of you who have always wondered and for all of you who have never given it a second thought.

SarahMcow. 20 years and counting.

5 thoughts on “Chat Rooms, Dial-Up, and the Legend of SarahMcow

  1. Thanks for sharing the whole story. The fact that you were 11 when I was a sophomore in college totally blows my mind. I’m not sure we can still be friends. Xo

    1. It’s one of those things that I never thought to explain to people! And YES, we are still friends. I’ll never mention 1994 again. :)

  2. What a great story. And thanks for the heads up in what a Holstein cow looks like,lol.

  3. Yes! I have wanted to ask you about that since forever!

  4. You sew? Me too. Begin dialogue now.

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