Growing up in time and place, making the person you are? 1st Chapter tell me what U ThK
| CHAPTER 1|
“Charlie, wake up!” Someone was speaking as I was being shaken. As I Slowly came awake, I noticed it was still dark outside and Mom was still in her nightgown.
“What is it Mom?” I asked through the fog of waking too early.
“I need you to go get the milk cows into the barn!” Mom replied.
“He left a few minutes ago to look at a piece of earth moving equipment.” Mom replied. You get the cows and I'll get the girls up to help with the milking. Don't take too long bringing the cows home!”
“OK Ma, I'm up!” as I slid out of bed and put the pants on I had worn yesterday.
Shirt and socks were next as I headed for the enclosed porch for my shoes and coat. As I stepped onto the back door landing I noticed it wasn't as dark as I thought it had been. There was a yellow glow in the eastern sky that was starting to give light to the morning. It was also cold enough that I turned around to reenter the house and grab my stocking cap and gloves that I hadn't worn for the last couple of weeks. Running to the milking barn, I quickly put ground corn from the walk in bin into five gallon buckets and carried them to the front of the wooden stanchion's and spread them for the cows. After two more trips to the bin, I opened the big doors to head down the lane to the pasture. It was spring and my eighth grade of school was finally over. The dew was wet on the grass and everything was right with the world. Except, maybe, I should have worn my overshoes. My leather shoes were getting soaked and Dad wouldn't like that.
Walking and scanning, I finally saw the cows in the far corner of the pasture. As I approached the cows I started calling. “Come boss. Come bossy.” One at a time, they started to get up and lift their tails to do their morning business. The only one left to get up, when I got there was Peaches. Slapping her on the shoulder, she rose and did her business too.
Looking around, everything was quiet and peaceful as the sun started peeking out on the horizon. All I could think of was, “I'm so glad Mom woke me up to get the cows!” And then I spoke, “Go on bosses, head home.” They started falling into line, heading for the barn and the grain that they loved. They all had a name, Peaches. Red, Brownie, Bossy, Daisy, Susie, Star, Blackie, Gurtie, and Kicker. Some of them I can remember raising as young calves and helping Dad get them used to being milked after they started having calves.
Dad said I missed out on a lot, having been born in the fall of 1951. The milk barns had at one time been a place to house horses. The horses were now all gone, with tractors taking their place. Now you needed money to buy fuel for the tractors as well as everything else that is needed to run a farm. He kept saying he was tired of having to accept what the price of grain was in town and should start his own business. The last three years after buying a Road Grader, he had graded the areas town ship roads. Now he wanted to do more, like replacing old culverts and making roads. He had read in the advertisement column of the paper, an ad for construction equipment. He thought he could buy a used dirt mover and fix it up. Everyone knew Dave Leutzen could fix anything. I knew Mom had her doubts and thought Dad should buy the 160 acres of her Dad's. He said spring was his busy time for grading roads, and there was no time left for planting crops, let alone buy more land to plant. I had some ideas of my own, but hadn't voiced them yet.
As the cows walked up the lane to the barn, Dana was walking out of the house, heading for the barn too. Dana was a year behind me in school, with our sister Marie being two years behind Dana. Even though Marie was only eleven, she had been milking for two years now. The first year, Daisy was the only cow she milked. Daisy was the easiest cow we had to milk, plus she had small teats for small hands. This year she had two cows to milk, like the rest of us. Today me and Mom would have to milk Dads two cows, plus maybe milk those two cows the rest of the spring and summer while Dad graded roads and did field work. Little Harriet, my sister who was seven was watching my little sister Irene, who was almost four. Mom would run into the house between every cow she milked to check on them.
After milking was done we still had to separate the cream from the milk with the separator which I turned by hand, while Mom poured the whole milk into the big bowl. Once the separating was done, the milk that we didn't use or sell, I feed to the pigs in a trough. The cream went into the house to be put into jars, to be sold in town. If the cream became four to five days old and hadn't been sold, we put the cream into a butter churn and turned the paddles by hand until we had butter. The butter milk, if it wasn't sold, was fed to the pigs and we sold the butter.
We always tried to milk as early in the morning as the sun would allow so we had time for breakfast, and then off to school. Milking, twelve hours later was, in the winter, done by electric lights, before supper, with homework done before bedtime. Dad says having to face milking twice a day builds a strong character. All I know is that it gives a person time to think of what you would like to do! Especially when the barn is cold in the winter time and your hands are cold and wet and chapped!
Our neighbors, the Nickoliasens had went into debt and built a milking parlor with a pipeline milking system to milk sixty cows. Their barn was heated with automatic milkers to put on their cows. How nice! Dad says they are risking their land going into debt like that. He also says Holstein Cows like the Nickoliasens milk take three times as much feed as our Jersey Cows with only twice the milk. I heard the Holsteins butterfat was only five to ten percent, where as our Jerseys were forty to fifty percent butterfat. All I know is, the value of what the salable product is, compared to what the operating expenses are, should be what you do. It's a story problem! My teacher taught me that!
Clifford Nickoliasen's daughter Marlys, was in my grade in country school. She said you still have to get up and milk cows. Getting bigger had not changed anything, except, maybe, making it easier. You were still tied down, to having to always milk twice a day!
Dana met me at the front of the barn, chiding me about getting the cows in. “Took you long enough!” was how she put it.
“Dad says never hurry the cows. They will hold up their milk!” I replied.
“He also said don't get you're shoes wet!” She shot back. “I saw you just standing there watching the sun rise!
“You could have came with me!” I said in my defense.
“You didn't wait for me!” Dana complained.
“I didn't need you to help. Besides, I didn't know it was going to be so pretty this morning!” To myself I thought. “She's a year and a half younger than me, but she always has thought she can do everything I do!” Out loud I said, “After chores are done I think we need to hoe the garden before it gets too hot.
“You're no fun!” She retorted.
“Well, if we don't do it, we'll be told to do it, so we might as well do it, before we're told to do it!” I shot back.
“Do, do, do, like I said, you're no fun!” complained Dana.
“If it gets hot enough today, maybe we can go swimming in the dam today.” I suggested.
“Can't!” she replied. “Mom says I can't go skinny dipping anymore, and she hasn't bought me a bathing suit yet!”
“Didn't use to stop you!” I replied.
“Mom says, I'm growing into a young lady and should act like one! Sorry.” Dana sheepishly said.
“That's OK.”I sympathetically said. “The cows are about done eating their grain, and here comes Mom and Marie.”
Milking was always a time to think, remember, and plan what you would like to do next with life. When Dana and I were little, our house had only two bedrooms, so the girls and I all slept in one room, while Mom and Dad slept in the other bedroom. Four years ago Dad built another room off of the kitchen, and the girls moved into their old bedroom. Dad also put in a bathroom off of the kitchen and now we very seldom use the outhouse out back. Mom says it's a sign of the times.
Like high school. Going was considered the “Normal” now, where as, thirty years ago it was optional to go to school. I know Mom and Dad thought that as easy as school was for me, I should go to high school and college, but I had my doubts. I thought I should buy the one hundred sixty acres of Grandpas and find a way to pay for it. They didn't know that because some things you kept to yourself.
I always liked to listen to Mom and Dad discuss what they thought we should do and why. Mom said Dad was an old Norwegian,stuck in his ways. Dad called Mom his stubborn German. They both called “The Midwest” the melting pot of the world. Mom said her Grandparents were horrified that she would marry outside of her race, to a Norwegian. In grade school I had learned a broader term for the word race. I had learned that the people of Denmark were North Men (Viking) mixed with Germanic people. Different European country's had different amounts of blood from different invading peoples to give each nation a look of its own. Germans invaded and settled England. The Vikings invaded England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France, as well as going all the way to Africa and Mediterranean to become Slave Traders as well as invaders. Sweden invaded Russia. Russia invaded Siberia and Alaska, and we all invaded America. In conclusion I had decided there was no pure race, just a different blend for each country. Or, as in America, many different blends from many different peoples.
Finishing up with milking the third cow and seeing I was the last one to get done, I put the milk pail on a stool and turned the cows loose. With them going back to the pasture, I headed back to the house with my milk to help Mom separate the cream from the milk. I then carried the skim milk that we wouldn't use or sell, out to the pigs, while Mom took the separator apart to wash it.
Only after the chores where done was I able to have breakfast. Cornflakes with milk and sugar are our favorites at the moment. Including, for the last six months, the girls and I have been spicing up our Cornflakes with cream. At first we only added a little, but now it's more cream then milk. Mom's raised her eyebrows a few times, but so far hasn't said anything. We very seldom had breakfast as a complete family and us kids normally skipped praying. Instead we gathered what we needed for breakfast from the refrigerator and cupboards. Spoon, bowl, Cornflakes, milk, cream, and sugar. When done, if we took it out, we put it back. Unless someone else wanted it left out. Then they put it away!
Putting things away after breakfast, I went looking for the girls and found them in their room. “Are you ready to go to the garden? Dana? Marie?”
Harriet piped up, “Can I come to?”
“No!” Dana replied. “You wouldn't be any help!”
“Let her come!” I injected. “You and Marie can use the two hoes we have and I'll teach Harriet what's a weed and what's a vegetable. Ready!”
“Yes we're ready! Let's do this before it gets hot!” Marie chimed in.
“I'll tell Mom we're taking Harriet.” Dana added.
On the way to the garden Dana spoke up. “It's going to feel funny this fall when you're not in school with us!”
“You'll get used to that.” I replied.
“You could take the ninth grade in our school like Roger Nickoliasen did two years ago.” Dana continued.
“I was thinking about maybe not going to school this fall.” I replied
“What! What would you do?” Exclaimed Dana.
“Well I was talking to Grandpa last Sunday and I told him we should buy the one hundred sixty acres of his. And he said if I wanted to buy the land, I should figure out how to pay for it!” I lamented.
“And you don't think you can go to high school and buy it at the same time.” Said Dana.
“Ya! I probably would have to get a job. And I would have to find out from the bank, how much payments would be? How much land taxes are? If I should rent the land out or farm it myself? If I'm farming the land, I don't need a crop failure, because I've got to make the payment each year till it's payed for. Grandpa says a man always meets his obligations. If I farmed it myself I would have the tractor and machinery cost that I don't want right away.” I concluded.
“Ha guys!” Maria spoke up. “We're at the garden! Lets get this done before it gets hot! Whats the word when you stand around and don't get anything done?”
“Lollygagging, or possibly procrastination.” I replied. “Dana and Marie, you start down the rows and Harriet and I will get on our knees and take the weeds out between the plants.”
“Is this a weed?” Harriet asked.
“Yes, that is a weed, this is a onion top. On this roe, anything that doesn't look like this onion top we will pull out! OK.” I informed her.
“OK.” Harriet replied.
By ten thirty everyone was hot and sweaty, when Marie spoke up. “Daddy's coming home!”
Sure enough, they could see Dave Leutzen was coming home with his pickup. Immediately Dana and Marie dropped their hoes at the end of the roes and we all ran back to the house.
We found Dad in the kitchen talking to Mom. “I found a Scrapper for a good price. It would be a better deal if I bought a Pay Loader and a Caterpillar with a Dozer. That would give me the ability to do a lot more jobs. The problem is, I don't know if the bank will loan me eighteen thousand dollars, and I don't think my Dad or your Dad will cosign for the loan!”
“I know what you should do!” I blurted out.
“Yes Charlie, what would you do?” Dad asked sighing under his breath.
“I'd have a farm sale!” I replied.
“What!” Dad exclaimed.
“Sell the milk cows and the farm machinery and rent the land out for as much as you can. Transfer the debt to the Dirt Moving Equipment and make it work!”
“And that would help me out?” Dad asked.
“Yes, it would give you the chance to do what you want to do! Build and repair roads full time! We will still live economically because this can be you're base of operation.”
“You might have something there Charlie. I'll have to give it some thought.” Dave replied. This afternoon I'd better go see the banker and decide what to do. Right now I've got to get the sickle sharpened on the mower and mount it on the B-John Deere. With a seven foot cut, the ten acres will take me all day tomorrow. One of those fourteen foot swathers would really be nice! Have it cut and put into a windrow to be stacked in one operation. O, well! Then I would need more land to farm, plus have more to pay for. Maybe Charlie is right! Maybe I need to commit to what I want to do. We'll see!