Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Dad and the hired men milked 15 or 20 cows...

Dad and the hired men milked 15 or 20 cows, by hand, each morning by the light of coal oil lanterns. Dad said cows were like people, and he treated them well. Some were cranky, some nervous, some had big appetites and others ate less. They all had names, personalities and special needs. The men sat on one-legged stools because it allowed them to move side to side and forward and back as the cows stepped around while being milked.

No one could feed the cows to please Dad. Old Hoke was greedy and would twist around, press her neck against one side of the stanchion and stick her long tongue out to lick up her neighbors’ food. Dad put a stop to that; he fed her neighbors a bit to the side so greedy Hoke couldn’t rob them. And so it went with the feeding. He never took an overnight vacation because the cows came first. When we drove the Model T milk truck to visit Aunt Rose in New Florence, he’d feed before we left home and be back in time to feed before the night milking.

Not only did he feed just the right amount to every cow, he fed at about the same time of the day, and some cows got a little more or this or that, for various reasons. The cows would be standing at the barn door waiting to get in when he put out their food. I can smell it now: grain and ensilage sprinkled with cotton seed meal and a little salt. This was great for the animals, but the schedule interfered with Santa Claus’ visit.

After early morning milking, the chores included straining the milk, washing and sterilizing the utensils, bottling and capping the milk and cleaning the area. Breakfast was after that, at about 8:30 a.m. The timing for Santa’s visit was better for an evening celebration and therefore we had Christmas on the night before, Dec. 24.

When family and friends were eating and chatting, Mom would interrupt by saying, “Listen! Did anybody else hear that?” We were very quiet. “Santa might be in there, right now.” She would peek though between the heavy curtains that separated the dining and living rooms. “Santa” had, of course, come down the big stone chimney and was putting gifts around so we should continue eating. Santa was not to be disturbed. There was always a twinkle in her eye when we heard Santa while we were eating. It would have ruined things to have reasoned it out about white whiskers, sooty chimney and all that. I grew up with this schedule they worked out to suit the cows and never questioned it. We still like Christmas to be on the 24th. It makes the next day a quiet, restful one with lots of leftovers.

In my teens, I played Santa, and what a surprise I got. Our guests included a student couple and the couple’s two little girls. Before dessert, I slipped into the bedroom and put on the red suit, white beard, the cap and boots. When everyone was in the living room, I came in the front door with a bag over my shoulder. My “ho, ho, ho” didn’t go over well at all! One little girl screamed bloody murder and buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. The other was puzzled. With incessant screaming, I gave out candy and little toys and made a quick exit. I was crushed -- until I learned that the screaming one had wiped her eyes and said, “Let’s do it again.” We didn’t.

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