Learning another part of chores

Somewhere before fourth grade, dad taught me to milk our cows.  Every morning and evening he sat beside the literal “tail end” of the Holstein with a three gallon pail pinched between his knees.  His head always pushed into her belly with his butt well placed on a single legged wooden stool that he’d made.

One day dad sat me on his stool.  Taking my hands he wrapped my fingers around his cow’s teats.  Dad’s hands had always swallowed them but mine could hardly wrap around let alone hide them.  She was probably over seven years old and so calm the whole time I struggled to get a single drop from her.

Using his thumb and forefinger, dad then gently pinched a teat and pulling down caused a strong stream of milk to flow into the pail I was trying to hold between my knees.  That pail had only a few drops in it from my efforts.  A sound rang from it as a stream of milk splattered hard on the bottom.  He later taught me how to strike dulled notes from the side of the pail as it filled.

After a few days of practicing dad sat me beside our younger Holstein.  She was barely two years old.  Her udder, as well, was much younger.  Her teats fitted in my young hands close to the way dad’s fitted to the old girl.  My pail was another three gallon one and so I usually got it about a third full.  From his cow dad always got a bit beyond half.  For a week or so he checked on how empty I’d gotten my girl’s udder.  From there I on stripped the last bit of milk from her udders.

Making sure she was empty was something that dad hammered into me.  “You must strip all her teats free of milk everyday or in a week or two you won’t be getting milk for your cereal,” he told me.  Her bag, for many years, became the one I stripped of milk morning and evening.

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  1. CYnthia McWilliams 09/14/2009 — 5:31 pm

    A lovely buccolic reverie. I particularly like the comparison of the old and young cows, and the old and young man. I would add a comma or two, but that would not affect the excellent imagery and peaceful feeling or real connection to food, time and place. Well done!

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