April 12, 2010

Milking the Cows

My grandmother as always had a way of getting me to enjoy working. I really think she was unaware of what she may have been doing. What ever her motive was it worked for me. Cows were always a facinating animal to me. Coming from a place where there was no cows may have been the reason why. The first days we were here, I recall going to the pasture fence for hours watching them eat. The yellow thing in the lot of the pasture I thought to be a melted kitchen garbage pail turned out to be a salt rock for the cows to lick. How long it took my seven year old city brain to figure that one out I don't know. I finally did not believing I thought such a silly thing. I started the third grade in the south. The fall arrived with in a couple of months and picking cotton was another one of those things that I had no clue how it was to be done. I went by what I had heard the adults say pretending I knew exactly what to do. Picking, ok put on the sack and pull the cotton out of the bowl that held it. Wrong, I heard the wrong adult conversation, missed part of it actually. Picking out of the bowl is what was done before the gin was revamped to separate the cotton from its hull. I was told very quick by my know-it-all cousins I was doing it wrong.

Learning was always no problem for me. Learning how to do something manual was very easy for me. Picking cotton was simple. Just grab it and put it in the sack. Filling the sack was the problem. Picking as much as my little brother was even a bigger problem. He had that and I had the milking cows. If truth be known I may not have been that great at the milking. My grandmother made me think I was though. She said there is an art to milking. The trick to getting the milk to come our in a large swirt is starting at the top of the cows udder. The motion used is a continueous pulling down motion. If you squeeze and pull down as you squeeze filling a milk bucket up takes no time at all. My daddy was not the greatest at milking. He tried to do it the way one would think. Just grab the cows tit and squeeze, no it really matters that you start and the top of where the udder meets the tit and pull down.

The bucket you are using is a very clean bucket. Grandmother made sure of that. Before leaving the kitchen the bucket was filled half full of hot water. The hot water was to wash the cows udder before starting to milk. Our cows all had names. They had personality. In the faces I saw characteristics that people have. One of our milk cows we named One Horn. The name explains why. She was a mean cow and would kick you many times. The milk cows were bigger usually with light tan mixed with white spots. One Horn was a larger cow, but she had black mingled in with the white and tan. Then there was the best milk cow ever, she was a sweet cow. Her face was more like a young sweet women. She didn't ever kick when she was being milked. Getting her into the stall to milk was simple. Cotton seed is another cool thing. It was brought from the gin after we took a bale of cotton to the gin.

A bucket of cotton seed was all it took. Every morning the cows came to the lot of the pasture around time to milk. Betsy, good name for a cow, would follow me and my bucket of cotton seed all the way into the stall. There were some cows that we had to put in a catching pin built in the corner of the stall so she would not move. This made it more of a chore; not Betsy she stood in the middle of the stable which was like a large room with no restraint. She also, had the prettiest calves. Most of the time we had less than twenty cows at one time. The pasture land at the house was not enough to have more than that.

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