The Great Cow Hoist has been an ongoing argument between Connie and Marilyn for years. At the risk of alienating one of my sisters, as a true witness, I feel obligated to set the record straight. Mother was there as well, but everyone knows how ditzy Mother is. Additionally, she tries to be impartial, so she sees the story both ways, depending on which sister is putting the most pressure on her at the time.
To begin with, milking the cow was the most universally hated job in the household, palmed off on whichever God-forsaken soul who had the least excuses and broke first. Of course, neither Daddy nor my brother could milk. It was a Biblical injunction, book, chapter, and verse known to Daddy alone. “Thou canst not take milk if thee cannot give it.” I never heard this verse quoted by another and seriously doubted its existence, but if it was good enough for Daddy, by golly, the lowly women in the family were stuck with it.
Mother was stuck with milking in the morning on school days due to the amount of time involved in de-manuring required before school. As much as she hated milking, she didn’t want to get notes from school, “Your daughter comes in reeking of cow s__t!”
There was no salvation for us on evenings, weekends and holidays. “I’ve milked all week. Now it’s your turn!” Eventually, Phyllis and I fought it out. I grudgingly took mornings since I got up earlier and preferred to get the evil deed over with. She took evenings. It was horrible! First of all, milking involved wading manure and mud to lure the cow to the least manure slopped area. We never had a milking shed with fancy mangers to fasten the cow’s head in while they eat their grain. I suspect there was no Biblical injunction preventing construction of a milk shed or manger, just unconcern on Daddy’s part, since he didn’t have to worry about getting hooked or the weather while milking. Milking, standing in mud and manure, with freezing rain running down my collar was my personal favorite. I feel sure all that rain that ran off the cow’s back must have greatly improved the purity of the milk.
To the best of my recollection, I never milked a constipated cow. Invariably, Bessie or Star would feel the urge as soon as I got started. In the event she was a little slow getting started, I could always content myself with being slapped with a tail caked with dried manure left from the last episode. Just so you know, personal hygiene is not high on a cow’s list of priorities. The milker could count on several solid tail slaps while milking, in addition to being stepped on if one is not good at following the cow’s lead.
Enough bragging. On the day of the Great Cow Hoisting, there was no milking involved. Mother had dragged me out to help her separate the cow and new calf who had escaped his pen to join his mother in the pasture. For your edification, I’ll explain. The cow and calf had to be separated all day to keep him from stripping her of all the milk that he felt was rightfully his. He got to spend a few minutes with her twice a day to nurse after milking, when the milk from one udder was saved for him. Afterwards, the cow turned out to pasture leaving the calf penned up.
Connie and Marilyn were standing nearby. As the cow ambled by, she turned her head to the side, hooking Connie’s shorts. Surprised to find herself burdened with a little girl, she lowered her gently back to the ground, setting her on her feet.