My Childhood Memories-Page 2
Chapter 3: Milking The Cows
We milked cows by hand and run the milk through a cream separator, and stored the cream in 5 gallon cans in the spring to keep it cold until we took the cream to town and sold it on the weekend. We usually milked 10 or 12 cows, my parents and I when I was old enough. We milked the milk into 3 gallon buckets and packed it to the house. Then we poured the milk into the cream separator. Before we got electricity we had to turn the cream separator by hand by turning a lever on the side. Later when we got electricity we got an electric cream separator which was a lot less work.
After the cream was separated we fed the separated milk without the cream to our hogs. My father referred to it as slop for the hogs, and when he fed it to the hogs he would say he was slopping the hogs. The pigs and sows sure loved that milk. My father made a wooden trough for them to drink out of, and they would come running when my father called them and poured the milk in the trough. They would push and shove, and fight to get their place to drink out of the trough, and never leave a drop of milk.
In the spring of the year we also fed little calves the separated milk that had been weaned from the cows we milked. I enjoyed this, feeding the little calves from the bucket. We also fed the separated milk to our dogs and cats. My father always had a pack of fox and coon hounds, and I had a little white terrier my Aunt Laura had given me when I was 3 years old. His name was Shorty, and he was my best friend until he died when I was in high school. He was a good little squirrel hunting dog.
We milked the cows morning and evening seven days a week. My father used to say it was somewhat like being in jail, because you couldn't go anywhere very long without coming home to milk the cows. After milking the cows we had to separate the cream from the milk with a cream separator. Then after running the separator it had to be taken apart each time and washed in hot water, then put back together again. I remember at first we had an old hand cranked cream separator which separated the cream from the milk by means of turning the crank on the side of the separator. That was slow and hard work turning that crank to separate the cream. Later when electricity was installed in our farm house sometime in the late 1940's my father bought an electric operated cream separator which didn't require hand cranking and made separating the cream a much faster and easier job. My parents took the cream to town on the weekend, and sold it at a place called a cream station that all the small towns in our area had in those days. Now they are all gone. Now days the farmers use electric milkers to milk the cows, and everything is automated. We did it by hand, the old fashioned hard way. With the cream money my parents bought our groceries.
Each cow had her own personality. Some cows were nice and gentle and never kicked, while other cows were downright mean and kicked and jumped around while you were trying to milk them. I don't recall getting kicked, but I sometimes had an old cow step on my foot while I was milking her, which was really painful. Also they were always swishing their tails to kill the flies that would bite them, and constantly swatting me in the face with their tails.
Some cows were easy to milk and some were really hard. Some of the best cows would give 3 gallons of milk morning and evening. Our cows were mostly of mixed Jersey breed wth some Red Shorthorn and Brown Swiss. The cream from our cows always had a high butterfat content. My father was very proud that the lady at the cream station, Mrs. Whitlock, always said our cream tested the highest butterfat of all the farmers. We stored our cream and brought the cream to town in heavy steel 5 gallon cream cans which we kept cool in the spring until we brought it to town to sell at the cream station. In those days most small towns in the area had cream stations which bought cream sold by farmers with dairy cattle. I remember in the 1940's and 1950's we sold our cream at a cream station run by Mrs. Emma Whitlock. It was located in Jerseyville, IL in a small building in an alley way just behind the Blue Moon Saloon. We also sometimes took our cream to Hardin, IL to a cream station run by Mrs. Gunterman. Mrs. Gunterman later ran a cream station for a few years in Fieldon, IL in a building owned by my father which she leased from him. It was located right next to the Shell Service Station then owned by Kenneth Duvall. The small town cream stations all closed down sometime in the 1950's.
When I was a little boy growing up on the farm we didn't have much money. Each week my parents and I went to town and did our shopping, and my parents sold their eggs and cream and with the money they received bought our groceries at the little grocery store. The grocer in the small town of Fieldon, IL where we used to do our shopping in the 1940's and 1950's when I was a little boy was named Bob Martin.
Years later after I was grown up, the grocer Bob Martin, said to my parents and I one day when we were in his store that I was best behaved little boy he ever saw. He said he recalled one time after my mother had bought our groceries, I tugged on my mother's dress and said, "Mom, do we have enough money left to buy me this little box of Cracker Jacks or a bar of candy?" Most children he said would say, "I want this or that," and just take it off the shelf without even asking their mother first, but I would always ask my mother first if we could afford it or not.
I also remember a Dr. H. H. Seely and Dr. Albert Van Walleghen who were well known Veterinanians in Jersey and Greene Counties in Illinois at that time in the 1940's and 1950's. My father knew them well and Dr. Seely and Dr. Van Walleghen sometimes came to our farm to treat or vaccinate farm animals. Dr. Seely was also the Veterinary at the Carrollton Sale Barn in Carrollton, Greene County IL at that time where my father often visited to sell or buy farm animals and other farm products that were sold there.
My father farmed with horses and mules until I was about 12 years old. I remember the 2 mules, Jack and Jerry, very well. My father bought the mules when they were about half grown at the Carrollton Sale Barn in Carrollton, IL in the 1940's. I remember looking out my upstairs bedroom window one morning when I was about 4 or 5 years old and seeing them out in the cowlot for the first time. Jack, the brown mule was nice and gentle and I could pet him, but Jerry the gray mule was wild and mean. He didn't like people at all, and when my father would go to harness him he would kick and jump around. My father always told me to stay away fom Jerry or he would kick me. My father wasn't afraid of Jerry though. He would just walk right up and put the harness on. He knew a lot about handling horses and mules, and I never knew him to be afraid of anything. He said Jerry was a good working mule even if he was crazy.
When the mules worked as a team pulling farm equipment or the wagon, Jerry was always straining at the bit and a couple of feet ahead of Jack. Jack never worried about anything Jack just took his time and if Jerry wanted to pull all the load that was fine with him. Jack was little bit lazy, but he was easy going, and I liked him a lot better than Jerry. I never remember riding the horses or mules much. They were used for farm work to pull the hay wagon and plow and other farm equipment. My father sold the horses and mules when I was about 12 years old, and bought a tractor. My father said he didn't enjoy farming as much anymore after that. He enjoyed working with the horses and mules.
Death Of A Little Calf
One time in the spring of the year, April or May, when I was little boy about 9 or 10 years old my father asked to go find a cow out in the pasture who had just given birth to a little calf a few days before, and to herd her and the calf home to the cowlot. Cows who have recently given birth hide their newborn calves in the brush while they go out to graze on grass in the pasture. The little calves hide so well and stay so quiet and still that a person can walk almost on top of them and not see them.
I found the cow grazing in the pasture right away, but I couldn't see the calf because it was hidden. The cow saw me, and so I knew she wouldn't go to her calf unless I hid. So I hid behind a tree and watched the cow. After a while, maybe an hour or so, the cow finally went near to her calf and mooed, and the little calf ran out of the brush from where it had been hidding. I then went and got around the cow and her little calf and started herding them toward home which was about a quarter of a mile away.
The calf was walking along nicely behind it's mother toward home, when all of a sudden after climbing a small hill, the little calf fell down and rolled about 15 or 20 feet down the hill kicking wildly and convulsing. After a few moments it quit kicking and lay still and dead. The cow ran down to the calf and started mooing.
I went home and told my father what had happened, and he came back with me to where the cow and her dead calf lay. My father and I then herded the cow home. She didn't want to leave her dead calf, but after several tries, we were able to herd her home to the cowlot. I felt very badly about what had happened to the little calf, and blamed myself for it's death, but my father said it was not my fault, and that I shouldn't blame myself. He said the little calf must have had a heart attack or something.