Friday, March 12, 2010

Feeding the Family: Cattle, Part I

It may be a little strange, but I always liked the cows. They were gentle, non-threatening creatures. During the summer, in the late afternoons, my brother or I would have to "go get the cows" so they could come to the barn to be milked. Off I would go, lazily walking through the pasture daydreaming, picking wildflowers, avoiding the thistles, making my way towards the cows. It wasn't a hard job, for as soon as the cows saw me they would start walking towards the barn. There was one cow I especially liked because she didn't mind when I jumped up on her, laid down on her wide back and had a nice ride to the barn. For a country girl, the hot sun, the bugs and the unique smell of dirt and cow was not the least bit unpleasant. I loved being in the barn during the milking, though my brothers often chased me out. I enjoyed watching all the cats gather around for the fresh milk, I enjoyed using the curry brush on the broad side of a gentle cow, I enjoyed watching the rich cream pour out of the "separater". And I didn't mind washing the teats before the milking machine was attached. The barn was a hub of activity and a conglomeration of distinctive smells - hay, dirt, animals, milk, ground feed, and manure - melding into one very "farm" odor. In the spring the pens in the barn filled up with new calves. I remember the day my Dad showed me how to teach the calves to drink from a pail. I would straddle the little calf, holding a can of fresh milk in it's face. Sticking my fingers in its mouth, the calf would begin sucking. Oh, what a strong sucking sensation that warm, wet mouth had! I would quickly guide it's bucking head to the milk in the pail and it was soon sucking up the milk on its own. What cute little animals the young calves were! Yes, in the spring and early summer, it was easy to pretend that fall would never come.

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