April 15th…“WHAT CHORE ON YOUR FARM PROVED FRUSTRATING TO COMPLETE?”
As sure as the sun rises over the barnyard, growing up in a farm family meant each of us had responsibilities (also known as chores) to carry out daily. On top of school home work, attempting to clean my room, and other tasks of family life, one of my numerous chores each day was to hike to the south end of our 120 acre farm and “call the cows” from the pasture and herd them up, through the cow lane, to our barn to be milked.
In the latter part of each afternoon, I’d get off the bus from school and boogie upstairs to my bedroom to change into my bib overalls and get my farm boots on. As the late afternoon sun warmed my shoulders, I’d saunter to the south end of our U-shaped driveway and begin the daily trek down our gravel road and eventually end up at our large pasture land by the south boundary of our farm property. Along that same gravel road was our cow lane that was about 10 feet wide and ran the length of our land and up to the cow yard. Our Holstein herd of cows really had it “made in the shade” out there in that pasture land. Lots of tasty grass was theirs to chew on all day and plenty of cool water that flowed along Brush Creek that was our south property line running from west to east.
Getting the cows sometimes turned into an extra fun time when cousins would be visiting our farm. The afternoon Minnesota skies above us would darken and then open up with a warm rain that soaked us all to the skin, but we reveled in the fact that it was as warm and comfortable as taking a shower in the house. With the pelting of each raindrop, we would just continue on in the moment of childhood joy and relish the time of working and playing in one fell swoop! Most days, though, I was solo in this farm boy task as I’d shuffle along the gravel road towards the pasture. Even as a child, I recall musing on the lush beauty of our crop lands that grew vibrantly verdant as they were nurtured from below by the rich, black soil of our farming region’s glacial deposits. As I paced along, I also noticed what our father called “soil bank”. It was a fallow ground that Dad had plowed but left alone, as far as planting, so that it could rest a year and may be used for a different crop in the near future.
Eventually, my “shank’s horses” (another way of saying “legs”) had me arrive at the pasture of our farm that bordered along the banks of Brush Creek. Father had taught me that to make my voice carry the farthest, in calling the cows, I should cup my two hands into a type of a megaphone tube and then hold them to my mouth as I called out, “COME BOSS!!! COME BOSS!!!” According to Dad, the cows had become accustomed to that human noise being associated with being fed their tasty grain “supper” back at the barn and would begin coming my direction and up the cow lane. Most afternoons, my call of “COME BOSS” would do the trick and, sure enough, the older cows wayyyy out there in the pasture, would lift their heads my direction and begin coming towards me. The younger “ladies” then followed the example of their elders and the entire 15 Holsteins (with calves and youngin’s) would amble past me and up the cow lane towards our cozy barn and their tasty evening meal that was waiting for them.
On some afternoons, though, for whatever reason, there would be a “cow mutiny” against this farm boy who was only trying to carry out the orders of his farmer father. I’d stand there at the gateway of the pasture, on those days, and holler “COME BOSS!” till I was hoarse and crying out of frustration!!! How dare they not obey!! The gall and audacity of those bovines to not heed my vociferous commands!!! To compound my exacerbated predicament, clouds of Dragon flies must have heard my screaming as they rose up out of the mucky swamp areas of pasture and began dive-bombing me. Although harmless, I’m told, my overly productive imagination saw those creatures as horrid helicopters that would either sting me to death with their long tails, or pick me up and haul me away to their swamp, never to be seen again!!!
Not only am I frightened to death by those Dragon Flies, but now I’m getting MAD at those recalcitrant, milk-laden, horrid Holsteins!!! Down off the upper gravel road I launched and raged, full speed, out into the pasture to physically drag those ornery animals back with me to the cow yard.
As I circled the herd, I’m picking up sticks and rocks to fling at those disobedient bovines as I actually chased them back to the cow yard and barn. The herd moved alright…..and FAST!! Problem was, that when Dad saw them RUNNING up the cow lane, he saw their udders (milk bags) being thrown from side to side in violent slapping motions. Dad bellowed at me at the top of his manly voice, “DON’T CHASE THOSE COWS!!! THEY’LL INJURE THEMSELVES AND ALL THOSE CHURNING UDDERS ARE GONNA MAKE THAT MILK INTO COTTAGE CHEESE!!!” Well, he was obviously exaggerating about the “cottage cheese” part, but, nonetheless, it was sometimes a very frustrating chore for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.