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Milkin' The Cow

A conversation this morning took me back a few years when The Cowboy was trying his best to hang on to a lifestyle that has nearly disappeared from the face of the earth. It was the early 1970’s and we were doing our best to live on the land in the most self sufficient manner possible. I planted a big garden. The produce fed us throughout the summer and we canned enough to get through the winter too. In fact, I remember getting through the winter months with out much money, because we didn’t have all that many outside expenses.  
We raised our own beef which was butchered at the local packing plant in town three miles away. We raised our own pork which we were daring enough to butcher ourselves with the help of our wonderful neighbors, Rich & Velma Crane who were often our resource when it came to living close to the land. We raised chickens so there were always fresh eggs and fried chicken. The flavor of home raised chicken, the kind that are allowed to graze green grass and forage for grasshoppers, that kind of experience can’t be described in words that do justice!  
We had milk and cream because we milked a cow. Now, my milk cow would make a dairy man laugh. We have raised Hereford cattle for several generations. Being a beef animal Herefords are not known for their milking ability. This particular cow produced more milk than the average Hereford. I called her Pauletta. Now, Pauletta not having been bred for such abuse was not exactly cooperative at milking time. She made me work just to get her to the stall. She stepped in the milk pail a time or two. She had an ability to hold her milk not allowing the “let down” that let the milk flow freely, but I usually sweet-talked her into it with a little patience. And, of course, she kicked! Bruised shins and other parts were testimony to the cost of fresh milk.  
Fresh milk and cream were awfully nice to have, but the dedication it took to produce our own milk was probably the downfall of our self sufficiency. No matter what you did you had to be there morning and evening. One of the nice things about living at an earlier time was that everyone helped out. Neighbors could always do the chores when you were away. And, neighbors could still do the chores for us, except when it came to milking. My father had had enough of such things in his life and wanted nothing to do with milking. We probably could have gotten the Cranes to milk if we had a normal milk cow, but Pauletta was not exactly an inviting experience. As for anyone else, no one knew HOW to milk a cow. So, eventually we gave up the milking. As time passed other things of our ideal lifestyle slipped away until here we are in 2005 with only the cattle and that old local packing house has been closed for nearly 30 years. Now, we still can have home raised beef, but we have to haul 20 miles to have it done.  
Society is supposed to progress over time, but in the agricultural world progress has meant taking culture out of the mix. We’ve lost something very important. The ethics of food production cut across so many aspects. One of those aspects is our modern attitude toward work. All of what I have described was work. But work that felt good. It took time, but the time spent was rewarding. The new attitudes strive to reduce work so that we will have time to participate, time to be entertained, time to get away from work. There was nothing wrong with the work that drew us closer to the natural world. There was nothing wrong with the work that relied upon community and neighbors to prosper and strengthen relationships.  
I haven’t talked myself into milking another cow, but I sure wouldn’t mind a big platter of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and a big ol’ ear of sweet corn once again. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 


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