Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moo Cow

"Brrrrrrr! Darn that's cold! What's up with that!? Huh, ah, do you mind? I do have some dignity, you know. Okay, we have a language barrier, but maybe if I kick that bucket, you might just get the point. Hands off, Bud!"

Well, cows can't talk, but if they could, I'm pretty sure I might have just hit the mark. Vaguely, I remember cows in a milking parlour. Now that's the fancy name of a room where cows do anything but recline in luxury for a leisurely day. Nope. Cows were lured into the parlour with the promise of grain and/or hay poured into the feeding trough. The cows were held in place by stanchions. The udder was washed down by loving hands that would then coax the milk from the cow into the bucket. Two times a day the cows were allowed to 'lounge' in the parlour. "Saulk, saulk, saulk", he called. Automatically, the cows came to the barn. Dad had a name for each of his cows.  A farmer and his cows spent a lot of time together.

I was always fascinated with the cow parlour. As small girls, Brenda and I would walk around the edge of the cement feeding trough. Behind the stanchions was a track where the farmer washed down the manure that came from contented cows. The milking parlour was a place where Dad crooned to his cows. They seemed to love it as much as did his children.

Then came along the milking machine. It is interesting that a woman was the inventor of the milking machine. Ana Baldwin was a farm girl from New Jersey. My guess is that milking was her designated chore. Sitting looking at the underside of a cow three times a day must have given her much time to think of how to make the process go more quickly, especially during New Jersey winters. So in 1879 she invented the first suction milking method. Several generations of milkers were developed until most farmers had given up the old of hands-on way, changing to the new milker. Farmers had more time with their families and cows had more time to mingle in the field. Win-win on both sides.

Uncle Keith put in a new system for milking cows. I believe it was a pipeline milking system. Cows didn't seem quite as happy as when the farmer crooned to them trying to relax the cow into giving up her milk. It was no longer a hands-on system. Cows were run through one by one until the herd was milked and the cow went her way and the farmer his.

My first word was 'moo cow'. Yes, it is two words, but I was a brilliant child. When you grow up with cows in your barnyard, you learn early on that they are fascinating to watch as they stand chewing their cuds. One might walk over to the fence with a wet nose and huge, sloppy tongue hoping for a bit of fresh grass or bit of hay. They smell of the field and manure. For the most part, they are gentle.

There is a bond between a cow and his farmer. Enough of a bond that a farmer might name his cows and sing to them on a cold winter day.

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