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Keep On Milking

January 12th, 2018 by jomo

My great-uncle Ed was milking twenty-six cows, mostly holsteins, but there were some jerseys mixed in. After a bit of whole milk for the house, the remainder was separated and the cream was shipped by rail twice a week to a creamery in Trinidad, Colorado, about 60 miles northwest. The skim milk was fed to the hogs, dogs, and whatever else was around.

The milking parlor had six stanchions as I remember. There were four of us milking: Rex, Wayne, and I worked by hand, and Uncle Ed, about 80 years old then, used a Surge Milker. I was the least experienced and the slowest, so Ed and I would do one cow each go-around, while Rex and Wayne milked a couple each. The Surge required less labor, but required more fussing around and Uncle Ed wasn’t real nimble.

Wayne wanted to go off and join the rodeo circuit. A few days before, he had packed up a bedroll and some stuff, taken one of the horses and ridden away. He was only gone for one night, but it caused quite a commotion. A lot was said about it, but mostly not within my earshot because I was sort of an outsider.

Anyway, he was back, and we were doing the evening milking. Rex was Wayne’s uncle, in his early 30s at the time, and Wayne was about 16. Something was said by one to the other that couldn’t be abided, and suddenly the two of them were down on the parlor floor behind the cows, rolling around in the cow flop and piss, flailing away at each other and cussing a blue streak.

Uncle Ed hollered at me, as I looked around the back end of my cow to watch the goings on, “Just keep milking, Slim! Just keep milking!”

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