Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The retail dairy business has changed a lo...

The retail dairy business has changed a lot, since Dad began milking cows by hand, and delivering the milk to customers homes in a one-horse, box-type covered wagon. Mom was the bookkeeper. That was in 1912, and he was in partnership with his brother-in-law, John L. Henry, an official in Boone County government. The dairy farm and the couple’s home were adjacent to the present location of the Stephens College golf course. The cows likely grazed on that golf course land.

Dad, a frugal man of German stock, was soon able to buy his partner’s half-interest in the cows and equipment. In 1916, he and Mom moved, with two babies, to the 80 acres they bought four miles east of downtown Columbia, and a half-mile south of Fulton Gravel Road. That half-mile private driveway extended through another fellow’s sheep pasture. Dad and his hired men graveled the mud holes, and finally the whole half-mile, with creek gravel, shovels and a gravel wagon pulled by two horses.

With more land Dad was able to increase the size of his herd. He used good Holstein bulls and saved the heifer calves, year after year, to improve and enlarge his herd. He employed two sons of Henry and Annie Williams, neighboring land owners, to help with the farm and dairy work.

Dad built a hollow tile milk house and bought an old steam boiler to heat water for washing milk cans, buckets and, later, glass bottles. Soon he contracted for a 30-foot-tall, Dickey hollow tile silo made in St. Louis, for storing chopped corn to feed the cows. I treasure my one silo tile that was rescued when the farm became El Chapparal subdivision.

The cows lined up at the barn door, waiting to get in to eat their mixture of silage, wheat bran, bright yellow cotton seed meal and a dash of salt. Each cow had her own stanchion and her own serving of food. Dad insisted on doing the feeding because he knew which cows would waste food if served too much and which ones were greedy. He’d put the neighboring cows’ food out of reach of the greedy ones, and he served larger helpings to Hoke Charlotte and the other higher producers.

The cows ate as the men wiped their bags with damp cloths that smelled of disinfecting fluid. The men sat on one-legged stools and held the metal buckets between their knees as they squeezed the teats alternately -- right hand, left hand, over and over. The white streams of milk flew into the bucket making a “squirk, squirk” sound that changed as the cows gave the milk down freely and the buckets filled. If the cow shifted her feet, the one-legged stool allowed the milker to rock back, out of the way, without getting to his feet.

At the evening milking time, several cats and kittens -- and I went to the old gray barn to get fresh milk. One milker poured milk into a flat pan for the cats and kittens. One of the fellows would squirt milk, directly from the cow, into that bottle. I didn’t like the foam, so I waited till it settled and then drank the milk as I walked the path back to the house.

Dad planned to tear down the old barn in the summer of 1922 and build a new one before cold weather. He’d leave the feed bunks and stanchions in place and milk the cows under the open sky. However, our house burned to the ground in May and all money, credit and energy went into building a new “Redi-Cut” home and outfitting our family of four with clothing and the necessary furniture and accessories. More about this farm next Tuesday.

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