Milking cows – a nasty job, especially on Saturday afternoons
August 31, 2010
Before my dad finally installed milking machines in our barn, my siblings and I were expected to do the milking by hand every day. It certainly wasn’t my favorite job any time of the year.
It was bad enough on winter mornings when the barn was frigid and we had just barely enough light to see in the predawn hour. Then I didn’t mind being close to the warm side of a cow. As she stood patiently in her stall, munching hay, I tried to absorb some of that warmth while I got on with the chore.
But milking in the summer was a different story, and doing it on Saturday afternoons was the worst!
To begin with, we’d wash our hair early Saturday morning and roll it up in pin curls held in place with bobby pins. We wanted curly hair for our trip to town on Saturday evening. We’d leave those pins in all day to be sure our hair was thoroughly dry before combing it into the style of the day.
Then came afternoon milking time. Our efforts at being in style barely survived.
First, because it was summer and flies were abundant in the barn, we’d have to spray the cows with horrible-smelling fly spray. I’m sure we wore “essence of cow spray” to town those evenings. But I guess everyone else did, too, so maybe nobody noticed.
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Then, as we’d sit down on those precarious three-legged stools to milk, the cows would switch their tails to flick off flies that had withstood the spray. Of course, the cow’s tail often got caught in our bobby pins. How I hated that. Sometimes I’d try to pinch the end of the cow’s tail between my knee and the milk pail, but the cows didn’t appreciate that very much.
By the time we were done milking, we were lucky to have any pins left in our hair. We’d have our bath and then take out the pins. I suppose we felt the effort of pinning up our hair was worth the final result, in spite of the battle with the cows’ tails. But the elimination of that battle was the main reason I was so happy when Dad finally installed milking machines.