I remember when
Ice cream was a rare and delicious treat. Late in the evening after all the chores were done Dad or my Uncle would bring a large wooden bucket filled with Ice from the cream cooler in the barn and a large coffee can full of Rock Salt to the front porch. We all had our part in the process, which made the vanilla ice cream filled half cantaloupes taste even better. There is something about using the strength of one's arms to turn the long handle on the ice cream machine that my grandfather made with his own hands that makes the memory so special.
Being finished with the chores meant that the cows, all 100 of them, had been milked by hand into pails which were then carried up to the back entrance to the kitchen. There the milk was put through a hand cranked cream separator. My mother and my aunt took turns turning the crank to a speed where centrifugal force caused the cream to drop in semi liquid globules from one spout and skim milk from the other spout into the original bucket. Some of the milk went into the Ice box. Some went immediately , still warm from the cow, to be poured into feeder buckets, Ice was delivered daily both to the ice box in the house as well as the cooler for the cream cans that waited for the truck from the creamery in town to pick them up at 7am from the barn.
Work started long before sunrise, by the time the old Red Rooster crowed loudly the only ones still sleeping were the children too little to help with the chores. The cows were milked, the cream separated, and the barn was cleaned. The calves were fed from buckets with rubber nipples which were hung from pegs along the high wooden fence that separated them from their mothers who responded to the cries of the calves by producing more milk.
My oldest brother and my oldest cousin manned the water pump, a lift pump with a long handle they raised as high as possible and as low as possible, the longer strokes made shorter work of filling the concrete basin that the cows drank from, going to and from the pasture. They also carried milk to the back of the house to the separator room. Usually they carried a bucket in each hand even carrying four buckets between them every trip. That was 25 trips per milking. There was a deep concrete sink just the right size to hold 20 bright shiny cream cans filled with the rich cream extracted from the milk. It all had to be carried to the cream cooler in the barn. Skim milk was then used to feed calves. Some was mixed with grain and table scraps to feed the piglets. Eggs had to be gathered and the chickens needed to be fed. My aunt would ring a bell to let everyone know ten minutes until breakfast. We ate quickly, things like side pork, "uncured bacon", pancakes and eggs. A glass of milk still warm from the cow always tasted great. After breakfast we all went in different directions.
There were always pails to be scrubbed, calf feeders that needed cleaning, and pitchfork and shovel work and picking and weeding that needed to be done in the garden. My job was picking whatever was on the list my mother prepared for me. I had a homemade wagon. It was a pallet from the implement company that had axles and wheels added. It was a working machine; I hauled to and from the garden, and cream cans to the cooler in the barn. It had a pipe tow bar with a hook shaped end to fit our hands. I watched when the last foot or so of the pipe had been heated to a bright almost white glow in a bed of coals that were brought to high heat with a large hand bellows. The hook was pounded into shape on my grandfather's anvil which had come by wagon train from the port of New York when he and his new wife arrived from by ship from Slavonia.
I don't know the story behind the acquisition of the anvil and the assortment of hammers and other tools that lived in the area of the separate little rock walled building that housed the forge. The old man worked long days right up until he died at 99 years old. He got to see electricity brought across the prairie by REA. His inventions kept the farm running. They include one piece steel rim wheels, horse drawn plowshares and assorted tools that he made and traded for seed, and new metal stock.
Of all the things that the old man made, I think I remember the ice cream machine best, sometimes in the evenings when it is dark and the air is rich with scent, I sit and I can still taste the delicious ice cream that we all made together. It can be bought nowhere, it takes everyone working together to make something so delicious.
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