Lot of Bull

  ur cows were the source of weekly cash flow when I was a kid. We had 7 or 8 milkers. Mother named them all, Hattie, Molly, Daisy, Brownie, and kept careful breeding and calving records. Mother was very fussy that milking times were 12 hours apart. It was her choice to get up very early to build the fire in the cook stove and prepare coffee. She and Dad drank coffee with crackers or bread and butter before going out to do the chores. Milking was only part of those chores.

In the winter when the cows were in the barn all night, and all day if the temperature stayed below zero, the manure was shoveled out and hay and grain rationed to all. The water tank was the lake so the cattle were let out to drink twice a day. A water hole was chopped in the foot-thick ice. The calves were given the skimmed milk allowing them to stay in from the cold.

The milk was run through the separator and the cream was sold. We saved whole milk for drinking and cream for coffee. We saved enough cream to churn into butter and Dad took the remainder to the creamery several times a week depending on how much we had, what the roads were like, and how hot the weather.

Once the neighbors talked Dad into having a creamery truck pick up the whole milk. When he realized that whole milk was only worth 2 cents a gallon and the unseparated butterfat was worth less than the cream he took to the creamery, he felt the creamery was taking unfair advantage so we continued to separate the cream and fed the skim milk to the young stock. We always had plenty to drink and cook with.

Our cattle were shorthorns. They were a fairly beefy breed. Compared to Holsteins they gave more milk in proportion to the feed they ate. They gave from 8 to 10 quarts of milk twice a day. Most of them were hornless; although some of the calves were born with horns and they were often sawed off. Our one Guernsey, Brownie, had small curled horns.

Dad decided to keep one of Hattie's bull calves for breeding and his horns grew to over 12 inches long. We had been duly warned about how dangerous he might be if he decided to stick those horns to us. Even though we had played with him as a calf, he became too big and strong for us to push around. We were told again and again how a tame bull had playfully caught Grandpa Horton against the stall and broke his ribs. We must never let that happen to us.

In the summer the cattle grazed in the pasture on the far corner of the farm. That was usually where they were when it was time for the evening milking. Emil was supposed to go get the cows while I did the dishes after supper. I hated doing the dishes and he hated getting the cows so often we traded off.

I would get out at the end of the lane, which was the length of the first twenty-acre field and then all by myself I would yodel and sing at the top of my lungs. I wasn't always noisy and sometimes that paid dividends like the time I saw a litter of fox kits playing on the hillside. The mother must have been away hunting and the kits were rollicking around like a litter of kittens. They were fun to watch. Luckily I could go far around them and not disturb their play.

The cow path went through the edge of a slough on the way to the barn and I usually cut off across the field to avoid sinking ankle deep in mud. If I followed the cattle, I'd get muddy feet unless I rode one of the cattle. The only one that was tame enough - and the one that was last - was the bull. I waited until his feet sunk into the mud and then I slipped on his back for a ride across. I slipped off just before he pulled his feet onto dry land again. I had ridden him when he was a calf but after he grew up, I only rode him through the mud. We had an understanding or he would never have allowed it. I called him Sir Walter Raleigh.


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