General Non-Fiction posted September 29, 2016

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Milking cows in the sixtys and seventys

Shit Happens

by prettybluebirds

work challenges Contest Winner 
I have to say that the biggest challenge in my line of work was shit. I say was, because my husband and I retired in 2004. We put up with shit every day, seven days a week, lots of shit. Now, mind you, we were a tough pair---my husband slender, with dark hair and lots of muscle---me, also slender (then) with red hair, blue eyes and tons of patience. All those traits were a must have for our line of work.

We started milking cows in 1968 when things were much different than they are now. For instance, our cows pastured in the summer months; the dairies today never let the cows outside. There were very few milk parlors back in those days.

Morning and night, we drove the cows into the barn where they were locked into stanchions; which was often a challenge in itself. Someone, usually me, had to walk down the mangers in front of the cows to close the stanchions-- a hazardous job at times. A cow might decide, at the last minute, that she didn't want to be caught or milked, and rear back when the stanchion was half closed. This would result in my hand being smashed against the supporting beam and hurt like hell. I once had to have eighteen stitches when a cow pulled that stunt, broke the bottom of the stanchion, and crushed my hand severely.

Anyhow, after successfully capturing all the beasts, the person milking had to take a wide scraper and push the poop off the walkway behind the cows and into the gutters. The cows stood back to back in two long rows with a gutter behind them, to catch the shit, and a twenty- foot walkway between the gutters. The walkway had to be cleaned off before we could milk. I finally figured out that those cows held it until I drove them into the barn and then cut loose, thus making my job harder.

So, after the cows were caught and fed, the floor was scraped, then we were ready to milk. Oops, not quite, the milking machines had to be put together. We used Surge milking machines which had to be dismantled and washed by hand after each milking. Also, every drop of milk was carried to the milk house in stainless steel pails and dumped into strainers that sat on top of the milk cooling tank, or bulk tank, as they were called. It was a challenge to keep from spilling any milk and not break your back dumping those heavy pails.

Then came the real challenge to milking the old way. We had to throw a strap over the back of each cow to hook the Surge milking machines on. The leather strap consisted of holes the length of it and a hook on the end so it could be adjusted for the different sized cows. After we washed each cow's teats, we hunkered down beside said animal to fasten the milking machine on her. That is where the shit came into the picture again. I swear, those animals always managed to have shitty tails, and they knew how to use them. Nothing can look more innocent than an old cow calmly chewing her cud while she hits you alongside the head or smacks you in the mouth with a tail full of shit. As I stood there spitting and cursing, said cow would give me her sweetest look that definitely said, "What?"

It wasn't just the shit that was a challenge either. Those cows knew you were at their mercy when hunkered down between two of them. You picture it, a cow in front of you and one behind, that's eight hard hooves surrounding you. Most of the time the critters were agreeable but irritate them in any way, and you could be stomped to mush or kicked into the gutter full of---you guessed it---cow shit. During our early years, I often sported scrapes and bruises; as well as a broken ankle when a cow named Killer kicked and stomped me.

One day my esteemed husband had a brainstorm, "Hey, honey," he said. "I've got a good idea, why don't we build a milking parlor?"

Great idea there, I had only mentioned it to him about 10,000 times before.

So, we built a milking parlor and life definitely got better and safer. We still got shit on quite often, but the cows couldn't kick or stomp us as easily. Oh, occasionally they got a kick in, but they had to be sneakier about it and catch us in the open. No more washing milking machines by hand either, what a blessing.

I could go on forever about the challenges involved when we worked with cattle. We often got up at two A.M to deliver calves, herd bulls sometimes turned rogue, hot days spent in the fields so the critters could eat the next winter, a seven-day work week, etc.

I must give you one more little fact about cows and shit before I conclude. Did you know that cows can poop and cough at the same time? Woe to the person or animal that happens to be in the line of fire when they do. I once saw an unfortunate barn cat get plastered while watching us milk. The poor kitty made it a point to never come out on the barn floor during milking again.

In conclusion, I must say shit was our biggest work challenge. It had to be disposed of every day, which required a hired man. If I forgot to take a shower before going to town folks would look at me strangely and move away. That cow shit aroma stuck to a person better than any fancy perfume. Yes, definitely, shit was our greatest challenge.

work challenges
Contest Winner


It seemed I was alway reeking of cow shit back in those days. Being in such close contact with the animals left one with the cow aroma clinging to them I took a lot of showers in those days.
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