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
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
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.