The winter of 1963, I was barely ten years old and learning how to milk our cows, night and morning in the cold.
I poured the grain and watched them eat, each cow in her own stall. Their stomachs churned away down low, forming cud into a ball.
That cud then slid back up their throat. It seemed a little crude. And when I quizzed my dad, he said, “It’s undigested food.”
I thought it seemed a little strange to belch up all that food, then start the process once again with stuff that had been chewed.
My father said, “Don’t worry, son. These cows know what their doin’. It’s in their genes to ruminate. They just keep on a chewin’.”
“The hay and grain they’re eating is what makes milk each day. We take it and we sell it. That’s how we get our pay.”
He then gave me a warning. “Watch those cows that have a cough. If you’re anywhere behind them, try to stand a long way off.”
That’s all he said about the cough. He didn’t elaborate. But what he was implying was about to be my fate.
I walked behind old Betsy. She coughed, and out it flew. The speed with which it hit me must have been at least Mach 2.
So the food that cows are chewing is changing as it flows. What don’t make milk or muscle, well, out the back it goes.
It hit with such a splatter that my eye was matted shut. I’ve had some worse things happen, but I can’t remember what.
My father laughed and said, “Too bad! This ain’t a time for blamin,’ the next time you’re behind a cow. Give heed to where she’s aimin’.”
So back he sent me to the house to get a real quick shower. My mother saw me, laughed, and said, “You smell just like a flower.”
Right then, that’s all I needed-my mother funnin’ me! She handed me a hot, wet towel. I still could barely see.
I said, “Just wait a minute, Mom, it’s almost ten below.” She said, “Wipe it up the best you can. I’ll fill your tub. Now go!”
The years went by. I milked the cows, faithfully, twice a day. I’ve had some time to ruminate and now I’ll have my say!
The cows took up most all my time. I can’t say I was bilked. But no matter how hard I tried, those cows would not stay milked.