LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS! After the very sad events that happened in the school shooting in Florida and watching the young students organizing their protests and working for change, I decided that this month I would like to honor the very young women who sacrificed and worked to make changes in the […]
A battered man staggers into the emergency room with a concussion, multiple bruises, and a five iron wrapped around his neck. When the doctor asked what happened he replied. “Well, it was like thisI. I was enjoying a quiet round of golf with my wife, when we both sliced our balls into a pasture of cows. We went to look for them and I noticed one of the cows had something white in its rear end. I walked over and lifted up the tail, and sure enough, there was a golf ball with my wife’s monogram on it stuck right in the middle of the cow’s butt. Thats when I made my big mistake.” “What did you do?”, asked the doctor. “Well, I lifted the tail, pointed, and yelled to my wife, “Hey! This looks like yours!”
For those accustomed to the soft life, four a.m. comes painfully early, even in summer. Charley was cruelly snatched from sleep by Bessie flippng on his bedroom light, calling out. “Up and at ‘em. Them cows is calling you!” He groaned, then crawled out of bed, not wanting to look bad in front of Freddy. Quickly making the bed, he stuffed his pajamas under the pillow, not waiting to be told. He’d felt like a kid at home, often needing prompting to do his chores, but knowing the farm would be coming to him in a few years put a new light on things. Just a few months ago, Charley had been a gawky girl, troubled by forbidden feelings for Marzell, his only friend. Thrust into the storm of his ambiguous genitalia and life-altering surgery at the hands of his father, the brutal beating and humiliation by a malicious thug resulting in a life-threatening injury. Together with the loss of his only friend, his life was torn apart leading him to wonder if the devil would be better than the deep-blue sea in which he was drowning today.
Clad in oversized rubber boots, Charley slogged into the barn lot behind Robert and Freddy to find six sweet-faced Jersey cows lowing impatiently. Charley assumed they were anxious for a feeding until Robert pointed out their distended heavily- veined bags with taut udders leaking milk. The beasts were clearly in need of milking. Robert educated Charley on cow psychology as he opened the gate to them. Queeny made her way into the nearest milking station as Bossy took her place in the second. Sally, the third cow threatened to hook Mo, the fourth cow when Mo tried to slip in the third station ahead of her. Warned off, Mo took her place in the fourth. A heavily pregnant cow, Sue Sue loped into the fifth station ahead of the placid Lulu, the last cow, also heavily pregnant. As the boys filled the bins with grain, Robert explained the first cow was boss and rarely challenged. Queeny had recently taken that place from the aging Bossy. The other four were still intimidated by Bossy and hadn’t tried to oust her from second place. Robert thought she might hang onto that spot a bit longer if she dropped another calf after her recent breeding. Sadly, cows were invited to barbecues or canneries at the end of their productive life. Their lives were good until they weren’t. Cows don’t usually enjoy a leisurely retirement on a subsistence farm. While aged farm horses might be “put out to pasture,” cows rarely enjoyed this kindness.
Robert put Charley to milking gentle Lulu. Charley had played at milking as a child, but real milking was serious business. Prior to milking, the cow’s bags and udders had to be washed with a soapy solution. Robert stooped by Charley and demonstrated proper milking procedure. “Sit down right here and lean into the hollow of the cow’s flank. Wash the bag and tits good with a soapy rag. Brace the bucket between your feet and grab the front and back tits. We have to put hobbles on Mo and Sue Sue’s back legs to keep ’em from kicking, but the rest of ’em do purty good. Check out the tail before you start. If it’s nasty or full or burrs you want to take care of that before they get a chance to slap you with it. If you need to, you can tie it to a rail with a hay string. Wrap your thumb and forefinger high up on the tit, then squeeze enough to keep the milk from going backwards, back into the bag. Squeeze the milk on out by tightening firmly toward the bottom of the tit with your third, fourth, then little finger, just like this. Don’t pull on the tit. That’ll git you kicked. Git a good rhythm going and pick up the pace. You gotta save the left back tit for the calf. If them cows git to pesterin’ you, just squirt ’em a little milk. They’ll dance all over for that. I got to git started on my cows now. Don’t git yourself kicked.”
Charley found the milking slow going. Lulu stamped a foot and huffed at him a time or two when he got rough, but didn’t offer to kick him. The muscles in his fingers were screaming at the exertion, and he had barely gotten a half-gallon of milk when Robert showed up to hurry him along. “It gits a lot faster with practice. I’ll finish up if you’ll help Freddy git the milk in the house. Four galvanized milk buckets covered with spotless dishtowels waited on a shelf. Each of the boys got two and headed for the back porch. They got back to find Robert pouring milk into a couple of pans for the barn cats. “The fellers didn’t fill up on what we squirted at ’em, so I got to top ’em off. Bessie ain’t gonna like it none if her barn cats take off.” As they turned the cows into the pen with their hungry calves, Robert clapped his hand on Charley’s shoulder, reassuring him. “You done real good. I bet by the end of the summer, I can turn the milking over to you and Freddy.”
Helping Freddy milk six cows twice a day didn’t sound too good to Charley. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to keep up with you ”
“It sure is.” Freddy chimed in. “I don’t think me and Charley can take care of all the milking by ourselves.”
“I think you’re gonna be surprised what you can do when your feet is helt to the fire.” Robert answered. “You boys can handle the milking and free me up to git on with somethin’ else. They ain’t never enough time on a farm.”
They made their way up the back steps with the last two buckets of milk just as the sun climbed over the pines. Charley was surprised to realize he hadn’t thought of his troubles the whole time he’d been milking.