We had five milk cows. Two were Holsteins, two were Jerseys, and one Guernsey.
The Holsteins gave too much milk and were hard milkers for a boy. The Guernsey, my favorite, was real quiet and easy to milk. The two Jerseys, the older one was a nice cow, the younger one was her daughter.
She was a kicker. You didn’t know when she was going to kick, today or maybe tomorrow, but she was going to kick the pail over.
The hired man milked in the morning. When we boys got old enough, we milked in the evening.
If we were in a hurry, we could milk with a boy on each side. Eventually we aged out of the job and younger brothers took over. Brother Carl will tell you that he milked for the longest time.
We turned the cows out to pasture during the green season. We had to go out with a tractor, truck, horse, whatever was available to bring them in to the barn. It was never a problem, as soon as the cows saw you they started for the barn.
We took the milk to the house and Mom would run it through the separator to get the cream for making butter. The skim was fed to the pigs and chickens.
We sold cream on Saturday evenings in Grand Ridge to about five different customers, 45 cents a pint or 80 cents a quart. Its funny, I can’t remember what I did this morning, but I can remember the price of cream from seventy years ago.
Like most Americans, I save too much stuff. But I’m glad I saved this old snowboard I made one winter night, so many years ago.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to build a snowboard,” Jimmy said.
“Yeah, we could do that,” Doug said.
Jimmy, Doug and I were all home from our respective colleges on winter break.
We always got together when we had a chance to hang out, practice our songs, (we had a house party band), and whatever else intrigued us.
I had been lamenting that I would like to have a snowboard, when the engineer and the architect decided that a snowboard was definitely doable.
“We can use my Dad’s tools, and he always has extra boards lying around,” Jimmy said.
“Ok, let’s do it tonight! We each have until dawn to build a snowboard. Then we find a hill and race down!” I said.
“Yes! The Snowboard Challenge!”
We drove to Jimmy’s home farm. Jimmy suggested we work in the dairy barn in the middle alleyway since it was super cold outside and the barn stayed relatively warm since the cows were kept in overnight.
Plus the barn had electricity, pretty good lights, and a radio with surround sound. Jimmy loves to tinker. When he learned that sound can be transmitted via metal, he taped a speaker wire to the metal milk line and taped a speaker to the milk line at the other end of the barn.
It worked perfectly. Sound on both ends of the barn.
Jimmy now works as an electrical engineer for a dairy equipment company, so he’s still tinkering with pipelines.
Doug has his own architect firm out in Vermont, still enjoying building things.
Jimmy got us set up with power tools and boards and misc other supplies.
Its a good thing Jimmy’s Dad’s cows were quiet and used to machinery, as we made a lot of noise when we set to work on our boards. Jimmy’s Dad was super easy going about stuff like this.
We all were in high spirits as we started. But I’m not a night person, so about 3 or 4 am I started feeling it.
“Matt. Are you all right?” Jimmy asked.
I guess he found me standing, holding my board, not moving for several minutes. I was nearly asleep on my feet.
But somehow each of us finished with our prototype snowboard.
“Where should we race?” Doug asked.
“Let’s go to my farm,” I said. “We can borrow warmer clothes for you guys.
Mom was surprised to see us. We braced ourselves with hot coffee. Then I got some of my Dad’s coveralls for Jimmy and Doug and we set out for the steepest hill we could find.
It wasn’t so much of a race. More of see who could actually ride their board down the hill.
Doug and I kept practicing. We gave each other’s boards a try.
Jimmy is not a morning person, and the night finally caught up with him. I remember him lying on his back in the snow, one arm up over his eyes to shield the sun, napping.
Now middle-aged with life’s responsibilities, I don’t get to see my old buddies as often as I wish. But we keep in touch and always have a good time when we do get together.
The bull had scurs, stubby horns which Hal held onto as the yearling Holstein bull tried to push Hal into the soft spring mud. Hal felt ribs breaking every time the bull pushed into him, but he figured if he let go, and the bull was able to get a head of steam, it would be all over.
Hal’s bull started out life like most dairy calves. Separated from his mom shortly after birth and placed in a calf hut with a circle of wire panel in front of the hut. The bull spent its first months socializing only with its human caretaker, who fed it milk replacer.
Hal’s bull was further socialized with humans because he was chosen to be a show calf by a local 4-H member. The bull was taught to lead with a halter, washed and combed, fed and watered. The bull grew to enjoy the attention from humans, and would even approach them to get his head scratched.
When the bull lifted his head, Hal called for Babe, the Blue Heeler dog he had received as a puppy in exchange for filling his neighbor’s silo.
Babe didn’t slow as she approached Hal, and attacked the bull’s heels with fury. Hal let go as the bull bounded over him. Babe didn’t stop to check on Hal, but kept the bull on the run, through the fence, and into the next pasture.
Just about every living dairy farmer has a story about a close call with a bull. Most farm animals are dangerous, but dairy bulls are killers, and they can flip into killer mode in a moment.