Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chores and Livestock

    All of the play and fun stuff had to be done in the afternoon, because in the morning we had our chores to do, like mine was to milk two cows , by hand of course, help carry the milk up to the house and down in the cellar to be run through the cream separator. The skimmed milk then had to be carried back down to the barn to feed the calves and if there was enough some of it went into the hog slop barrel. We had an old DeLeValve cream separator, that’s probably not the way you spell that, that turned so hard that Harold and Glen were the only ones that could crank it us younger boys didn’t have enough stout to keep the RPM’s up. As I recall after they left home we had to get a different cream separator. A used one no doubt. We had various other chores to do like feed the horses grain and hay. Then after we got the chores done and breakfast ate me and one of the other boys if there was one available and I ( I was always elected) would head the cows out so they could graze along the road. I think that we had a three hour time limit that we had keep them out there. That was referred to as herding the cows. We had about fifteen cows as I recall . You had to know how many you had because you had to do a head count pretty regular like to see if none of them had sneaked off when we weren’t looking. In those days the roads were all fenced so we had to keep the old cows from going into the neighbors farm yards and an occasional open gate. After about a week the old cows pretty much herded themselves they knew about where they could go and how far, but even so they were always testing you to see if you knew. It was a very boring job about the only thing we had to do was throw rocks at the insulators on the telephone poles and I don’t ever recall hitting one and breaking it. One bonus was that there were a few wild strawberry patches along the road and boy were they ever delicious. Even that required some doings, maneuvering those old cows around our strawberry patches, but we usually managed to keep the patches intact most of the time. An occasional car would go by and the people would almost always wave and usually shout a greeting at us.  In those days the cars were only traveling twenty to thirty miles an hour and with the windows down. No air conditioning in those days. Once in a while someone would stop and visit with us. I guess that was a plus, for in those days, people didn’t seem to be in such a big rush as they seem to be now days and they had time to stop and visit a little and be neighborly.  Had I not been so shy I probably would have had more people stop and visit me. We had one place where there was a swimming hole and we could jump in for a quick dip and herd cattle at the same time. One of us had to stay in sight of those old cows at all times however, because if they thought you weren’t looking two or three of them ornery old critters would get out in the road and head out never towards home either and then we would have run after them. We always had our swim suits with us (that was our skin). We always had to go bare foot no under wear, just a pair of bib overalls ,that were full of holes, and a badly worn shirt and that was it. That was mixing pleasure with work. The problem with our swimming hole was that when we got a heavy rain it would fill up with silt and would only be about a foot deep. When that happened we would spend a lot of time and effort trying to dam up the ditch and that was wasted effort because our dams always washed out before we could get much water behind them. I guess we weren’t very good engineers. Then we would have to wait for another heavy rain to wash the hole out again and sometimes that was a long time. Anyway that is where I learned to swim. That is a mile west of the fishing hole, the same county ditch. I think that the worst and the hardest job of all was that every afternoon or evening we had to pump water for all of those cattle and four head of horses and five or six sheep by hand. The old pump like everything else we had was worn out and pumped very hard and run about a half of a stream of water. I remember Wayne and I would take turns. He would pump a hundred strokes and then I would pump a hundred strokes. It seemed like and endless task. We would get the tank about full and here would come all the cows and horses and they would about empty the tank and man that was really discouraging. In the early spring when we had gotten a lot of rain we got a little relief, because our pasture was mostly swamp land so the cows got some water down there. Our fences weren’t the best and during the summer months a very disheartening thing to hear was, the cows are in the corn. Those were certainly discouraging words. It meant that we had to get them out of the field pronto because if they ate too much of it that would kill them. So we spent a lot of time running those suckers back through a gate because there was no way that they could go back the way they came in. Then we had to try and cobble the fence back up. We had one or two old cows that with our fences it was almost impossible to keep them out of the corn once they got started. And of course they always cut their tits up going through the fence and that made them sore so they would kick the hell out of you when you were milking them. We had one big old roan cow that seemed to think that a fence was made to go through. Glen had just spent about a week rebuilding our cow lot fence and he had really done a good job. He happened to look out and there that roan cow had worked her head between the top barbed wire and the woven wire and was reaching out into the corn field. She was big enough that she could bust her way through the fence once she got her head through it and she was real good at it too. So Glen just went and got the old sixteen gauge shotgun and let her have it in the rump. He was far enough away that the buckshot didn’t penetrate her hide but man it sure must have smarted. She went right on through the fence all right and he went and opened the gate and she came back in the lot. We had that cow for several years after that and she never went through a fence again. We never had much trouble with cows getting out after that. She was a nice gentle old cow otherwise. I used to get on her back and ride her through the mud hole in the pasture when I went down to get the cows. She didn’t seem to mind but I had to get on the first try, because she was on the move, she didn’t stop to let me get on either She was not real easy to stay on because a cow isn’t the easiest thing to ride. We had an old buck sheep that thought he was a cow and he always went with them. I used to get on him and ride but not very far because he had a really tough time with his short legs keeping up with the cows anyway, and I felt sorry for him. Of course us boys always teased him and you didn’t dare turn your back on him or he would butt you into the next county. He was good at attacking you from the rear and if he did get you from the rear you knew you had been hit, it would nearly unjoint you. If you saw him coming you could side step him, you had to do him like a bull fighter does wait until he was in his last jump then side step otherwise he could correct his aim and get you, and when he missed you that really agitated him. Also he would stand beside you very nonchalantly and wham he would give his famous side butt and that also packed a good wallop. That was his surprise butt because you never knew when it was coming, He would sneak up on us sometimes when we didn’t know he was around and get revenge. If I remember right he did that to some of our unsuspecting visitors, that we hadn’t bothered to warn about him. Needless to say most of our regular visitors kept an eye out for him. We had people come that wouldn’t get out of their car unless some of us was around. I remember one time that he got me and got me real good. I was carrying a bushel basket full of ear corn and he hit me from the rear and I thought he killed me . There he was standing there looking down at me as if to say, so there to I got you that time. Even now as I am writing this I am chuckling. I had forgotten old Buck years ago.

To continue reading click here.  Part #4 - Bill the Goat

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