Picture of dad milking by hand/ early 1970’s
Tomorrow is a BIG day.
We are moving my parents off the family farm.
I was nine years old when we moved to the farm. Had never been around farm life before that, except for a few early memories of my grandparents farm (I was 4 when they moved to town.)
Growing up on a 120 acre working family farm shaped me in ways I will probably never fully appreciate. Dad bought 20 Holstein milk cows when I turned 12. Expressed purpose was to give us some spending money. (And keep us out of mischief.) Milking is a two times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year activity. Up close and personal with the whole cycle of life. Learned about delivering babies, afterbirth, still birth, cesarean births, the art of milking a first time heifer whose utters are on fire with mastitis. Learned how to deflect the back hoof of an animal ten times my body weight, that wanted to kick the crap out of me, because she didn’t like what I was doing to her.
Manure. Could write a book on the topic. Sometimes you just have to block out the fact, you are getting splattered with e-coli.
Doing chores… Climbing into a dimly lit haymow in the dead of winter, afraid one of the banshees from Darby O’Gill would appear at any second.
Winter mornings so stink’n cold my fingers felt like they were on fire.
I learned it was not a good idea to engage the power-take-off on the manure spreader with a 20 mile wind to my back.
I remember side raking hay, singing along to the radio, in the middle of August listening to Band on the run.
Last month, I worked alongside a young man vacuuming hallways. He lasted three days. Told my son that his wrist was bothering him. Said he had pulled an all nighter playing video games, and wondered if he could knock off an hour early. I felt sorry for him. He doesn’t know any different.
Baling hay in the summer is still one of my favorite memories. My job of choice was in the hay-mow. Our barn could hold 300 tons of hay if we packed it to the top. (10,000 bales X 60# = 60,000# divided by 2000# = 300 tons) Over the course of a season, I would have handled every one of those bales at least once. In mid July, in Iowa, the temperature gets into the upper 90’s, so it had to be 100/ 110 degrees in the mow. We never gave it a second thought. It was just a part of getting the crops in. Working in those conditions shaped my attitude about the weather.
When our kids were still home, out of financial need, we started a small commercial cleaning business on the side. The older ones went with us in the evening and weekends as we emptied trash cans, scrubbed toilets, vacuumed and mopped the floors. I wished we could do more to incorporate the chores of my youth, but we were living in town and a dairy cow was not an option….
Final story. Look at that picture of my dad milking again. See that fuzzy cat on the left getting milk straight from the cow? Come to find out, she (Fuzzy) was a prize winning show cat. Had blue ribbons to prove it. She used to hang around the lumberyard where my dad worked. He thought she was a stray, so he took pity on her and brought her home. Year later, lady who lived close to the lumberyard happened to be visiting our farm, noticed the cat and mentioned she used to have a cat like that. We never let on.
If you were a cat, would you rather spend your days eating dry cat food or having a front row seat by the family cow?
You can take the boy (or girl) off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy (or girl)… thinking too about my fellow farm kid, MJ as I wrote this post.
You get extra credit if you can tell me the breed of the milk cow in that photo.
Update 12 hours later…just got home. Lots of great help. Went without a hitch. Here are a couple of action photos:
Dad loading up the family picture
The moving crew