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Life Lessons From A Dairy Farm

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 14, 2023 3:03 am

Life Lessons From A Dairy Farm

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 14, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Listener and Contributor, Katrina Hine, shares a personal story from one of her first jobs out of high school entitled “Cow Patty“.

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Here she is with a story. As a child, I had the good fortune to have grandparents that lived on a farm in southeast Kansas near a little spot in the road called Bartlett. The highlight of my summer and the best memories I ever had growing up were on that farm. In fact, some of my earliest memories were of the old dairy barn behind the house that was surrounded by colorful hollyhocks and wild roses. No one can explain it to you, but for those of us who are familiar with dairy barns, know that one of the best smells on a farm is in that dairy barn, besides the recycled grass, of course. I remember walking into the dairy barn on chilly mornings and being met by the whirring of the milking machine, the warmth of a pot-bellied wood stove, and the mixed scent of sweet feed, milk, and bleach.

The rhythm of the milkers and the radio playing Hank Williams in the background could almost rock you to sleep. My uncle Vernon, an old bachelor, moved back to the farm when I was a teenager to run the dairy, and he named all the cows beautiful hollywoods sounding names like Betty and Esther, Dolly and Clara. We never were quite sure about Uncle Vernon. Each morning I was met with the sound of a farm report from the local KGGF radio station, the smell of biscuits baking and bacon popping and the hiss of the old coffee pot. Granddad Bandzitt was always up before the sun and never ate anything less than biscuits and white gravy, several pieces of bacon, two eggs, and coffee liberally sweetened with overflowing tablespoons of sugar.

By the way, he lived to be 99 years old. First thing each morning, Uncle Vernon would carry in a bucket of fresh milk still warm and straight from the cow. Other than a little speck of dirt and some cow hair, it was wonderful. Grandma did skim off the dirt and she would blow the cream back while she poured the milk into a little pitcher on the dining room table.

Jump forward several years. I was out of high school and somewhat ambivalent about what I wanted to do. I had worked summers at the local Sonic while I was in school, but I really preferred to be outside. After graduation, I worked in Estes Park, Colorado, first on a dude ranch and then later at the Lazy B Chuckwagon dinners and show for that first summer out of school. After those summer jobs had ended and I headed back to Kansas, I knew I didn't want to go back to work at the family hardware store. So I searched the area papers and found an ad for a female dairy hand near Coffeyville, Kansas. This is exactly what I wanted to do because I loved farming.

I got the job on the spot and started immediately. The dairy was much larger than my grandparents little 30-cow operation and the equipment was state-of-the-art automatic milkers. The owners had wanted to hire a woman because the man before had beat the cows until they were too afraid to come up to the barn.

And when they did, their milk production was low. This was also the same year that Jim Stafford's song, Cow Patty, came out on the radio. Little did I know at that time how Cow Patty would apply to my new job. My first challenge was to get the cows comfortable with coming up to the barn. I found out real quick that the pasture where the cows were kept was huge and chasing them around every day took a lot of time.

There were 155 head of Holsteins and about four Guernseys to add just the right amount of butterfat to the milk. So I decided to try something. I would whistle. Every day that I went out to the pasture to bring the cows up to the barn, I would whistle. I would whistle the same thing every day until I found out that they were paying attention. Finally, a few weeks later, I was able just to stand at the back door of the barn and whistle as loud as I could and here they would come.

The winter that year was particularly harsh with below zero temperatures, frigid wind and freezing rain. The cows would slip and fall on the hard ground and sometimes we'd have to use a front end loader to raise them up back on their feet. No one ever said milking cows was glamorous or easy but there were times that it went to the extreme rather quickly.

I hate to admit this but sometimes I do silly things and one very cold day I did a humdinger. We had just let some fresh heifers into the main herd and this was a challenge in itself because they had never been milked before and their udders were small. The milk parlor was designed to prevent the cows from kicking you in the head with a long piece of sheet metal running parallel to a raised concrete floor.

The cows would run up the ramp onto the raised concrete and stop in front of the movable grain trough about four feet above the main floor. I had all the cows run in and I noticed that I could not see the udder of one of the cows. I had got all the other cows going and hooked up to the machines and then proceeded to try to feel around for the udder on what I assume was a fresh heifer.

I just remember thinking this girl is really long-legged. I can't reach her udder. Impulsively I stuck my head under the sheet metal to see where to hook the milker and got two very big surprises. The first was that it was not a heifer but a young steer and the second was a huge hot pile of green gritty manure on my head. Normally I wore a ball cap but not that day and the hot mess of green grass and sunshine almost burned my head.

Let me tell you that stuff was hot. So in a rush I grabbed the water hose and tried to get the green mess that was the consistency of wet sand out of my long hair. I got part of it out but what remained was equal to smelly hair gel.

The other factor I had not considered was that it was nearly 10 degrees below outside and I still had to go get another group of cows, blade the lot and then feed the calves. Needless to say my hair froze solid. Not flat on my head but partially standing up in a green grainy appearance and of course of all days the boss decides to come in and notices that something is amiss with my hair.

We chat for a couple minutes with him staring at my hair the whole time but then he finally decides to leave and then turns around to me and says I should ask but I don't think I will and he walks out just shaking his head. It took a couple days of hard scrubbing to get that gritty mess out of my hair so it wasn't so stiff anymore and not quite so quite so fragrant. The lesson I learned that day on the dairy farm is don't stick your head under a cow's tail to find its udder because you might just come up with quite a shock and some free hair product.

And a great job on the production by Faith and the editing and a special thanks to Katrina Heine for sharing her own personal experience with early work life in rural America and anyone who's grown up on a farm is around farms or barns. I spend a lot of time in barns and I have a lot of poop stories too. You actually get accustomed to it. You don't even smell it over time.

Of course unless it falls on your head live and hot. What a story. What an experience.

She will not stick her head underneath a cow's tail anytime soon. A special thanks to Katrina for sharing that story. We do dog walker stories in New York City and well cow poop stories on farms. Everything here on Our American Stories to share with you the rich and varied life of Americans in this great country. The story of cow patty.

Katrina Heine's story here on Our American Stories. So instead of selling my car using the Roto app on my phone I posted an ad online. Now it's non-stop phone calls and people at my door. I'm Larry. I'm here about the sedan. Not now Larry. See Roto will buy your car or even buy you out of a lease without the hassle. Hey I'm not a hassle.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-19 13:58:42 / 2023-02-19 14:03:40 / 5

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