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A milk boy’s Sunburned Face

Jerry Oster
St. Louis, Mo.

This story is rated D. D. as in dirty. It is a story about milking cows. All stories about milking cows are dirty, but do not be alarmed, this story will employ the cleanest and most sophisticated language available. For those who have spent many days in a cow barn milking cows, this story could be told in one sentence. But for the benefit of the “city slickers” who have never been in a cow barn during milking time this story will be much longer.

This story takes place back in the 1950s “the era of the stanchion milk barn. If you do not know what a stanchion barn is, let me explain. In a stanchion milk barn, the cows are lined up side by side. Each cow has her head in a stanchion, a device that locks around her neck so she cannot move about during the milking process.

Sometimes a cow will fight to get out, but most often the cows are content to remain in place because they are given a special treat of a mixture of various grains to eat.

The only purpose for bringing milk cows into a milk barn is to extract the white liquid product called milk. We often hear that cows give milk but this is not true. Cows do not give milk, you have to take it from them. What they give is something else.

Milk is the only product wanted, but unfortunately, while the process of taking the milk is in progress, there are a couple of other undesired products that usually appear on the scene.

One of these unwelcome by-products is a liquid that suddenly and with little warning comes cascading out and down onto the barn floor and runs down the gutter and out the drain. This liquid is just H2O with various minerals and other “additives” that stimulate one’s olfactory senses to the max.

There is another unwelcome by-product that also makes its appearance with little warning. It also gives your olfactory system a workout. It is called by many names, but the cleanest known name is “sunshine.” This sunshine in no way resembles the warm and luminous beams of sunlight that come from the sky. Perhaps the only good feature of this cow barn sunshine is that it does not cause sunburn. There are a number of other unpleasant side effects from exposure to this sunshine, but sunburn is not one of them. The viscosity of this substance is somewhere between a solid and a liquid. But it is not close enough to a liquid form to enable it to make its exit out of the cow barn on its own. So every milk barn has a special shovel that is dedicated to the one purpose of the dairyman using it to scoop up deposits of this sunshine and toss them out the barn door and onto a pile. Later this pile of sunshine is hauled out and spread on the fields for fertilizer.

Now that you have a mental picture in your mind of how things are in the cow barn at milking time let’s get on with our story. Actually, this story takes place in my cousin, Billy’s, cow barn. Billy, in just a sentence or two, told this story to my brother and me. The events of this story unfolded in a much shorter time that it takes to tell this story. But for the benefit of those who have never been in a cow barn at milking time, I will explain a few things.

When you are milking cows, you are usually constantly busy with various things. But sometimes you have a few idle moments while you are waiting for a milking machine to finish taking out all the milk. It was during one of these idle moments that Billy was able to observe that one of the cows was on the verge of emitting some beams of sunshine. Thinking that he might save himself some work of later having to scoop up the deposit of sunshine, he quickly grabbed the shovel and positioned himself and the shovel so that the beams of sunshine would land right in the shovel.

Now that you have this mental picture in your mind, let me explain something more. While all this is taking place, the cow is very contentedly eating the delicious grain, totally unconcerned about what is happening at the other end of her anatomy. This grain is always quite dusty, but the cows do not seem to mind that at all. But every now and then the dust will cause the cow to sneeze. This does not happen very often but when it does, it is like an explosion in the cow barn that blows out all the doors and windows. It is as if this tremendous pressure builds up in the cow’s body and then it is released with a concussion that puts out your ears. Furthermore, you probably would not want to be looking the cow in the eyes when she sneezes with a mouthful of grain in her mouth.

But, getting back to our story, Billy was not looking the cow in the eyes. Remember, he was situated at the other end holding the shovel and thinking he was very smart in saving himself a little work.

Now maybe I need to explain something more. When a cow is just about to sneeze and all this pressure builds up within her body, that pressure will seek to escape anywhere it can find an escape route.

Also, let me point out that prior to the cow feeling the need to sneeze, the law of gravity is determining the velocity and direction of travel of the beams of sunshine that are traveling towards the target, the shovel, that Billy is holding in position. Now I believe that in the study of physics one learns that when one natural law becomes a stronger force than another law of nature, that the stronger force overpowers the weaker force. In this case, the law of the build up and release of pressure superseded the law of gravity. This resulted in a change in velocity and direction of travel of the beams of sunlight being emitted. What now happened could be compared to the firing of a cannon. And poor Billy was standing right in the line of fire.

O, let me say one thing more. If this particular kind of sunshine did cause sunburn, Billy would have had a much sunburned face.


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