Dad’s Story: Milk Cows

April 1, 2022
Grandpa on my Mom’s side with dairy cow hitched to cart

Milk Cows

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.

Dad’s Story: Blacky

March 23, 2022

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date: April 2nd.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: Thank you!

My Dad has started writing down some stories from his life and I’m encouraging him.  I’m editing and typing them up and will share one now.


Dad went to the Illinois State Shorthorn Sale to buy a bull, late 1950s.

 He was bidding on the high bull when the auctioneer stopped the sale and said, “A few years ago, Shetland ponies brought more than what this bull is bringing.”

A few years earlier, Shetland ponies got real high.  The smaller the pony, the higher the price.

Les Mathers, the man selling the bull, had even imported Shetland ponies from Scotland during the Shetland pony boom. 

Inspired by the auctioneer, Les shouted, “a pony goes with this bull.”

Shetland ponies were the latest boom and bust fad as scarcity created demand with higher and higher prices being paid until finally supply catches up with demand and the price crashes.  

Probably the best example of this was the Dutch Tulip Bulb craze of the 1600s where some of the most rare Tulip bulbs sold for more than six times the average person’s annual wage at the time.

Chinchillas, Pot-bellied pigs, and most recently Alpacas, would fit in this category as well.

Well, Dad bought the bull and when he got home told us we had a pony to pick up.  Uncle Bill had his hired hand take my brother Dean and I to go get the pony.

We called him Blacky.  He was wild.  Blacky had never had a rope on him.

I trained Blacky to pull a cart with a homemade harness.  I had my younger brother Elmer get in the cart and I led Blacky down the road east about an eighth of a mile.  

Everything went really well until I turned Blacky around and we headed back home.  I gave Elmer the reins and walked beside them.  Blacky took off at a dead run home.

They made the first turn by the barn, but everything went bad on the second turn, upsetting Elmer and the cart.  Despite that initial setback, Blacky got really good at pulling the cart.

Another thing Blacky liked was riding in the back of brother Dale’s old 47 Chevy.  Take out the back seat and roll down the windows.  The neighbors did a double take when we drove by.

We built a new garage and had a New Year’s Eve party.  We played cards, danced some.  

It was a mixed group, some neighbor friends, some from Streator.  One Streator girl said she had never ridden a horse.  I went and got Blacky and gave her a ride with me leading.

When the Streator friends were going home, (2 girls, 1 boy), they got hit head on by a drunk, driving without his lights on, on the wrong side of the road.  Killed all three kids.

This was very upsetting to all of us.  That Streator girl had her first and last pony ride on Blacky.

Found My Old Homemade Snowboard

February 5, 2021

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.

Stories: Hal, the Holstein Bull, and Babe

October 28, 2011

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.