November 21st…“WHAT WAS THE FUNNEST LESSON YOU EVER LEARNED ON THE FARM?”
I was always plying for the pulchritudinous prowess of pursuing the perfect pursed pucker to prove I was the prince of human piccolos…….otherwise known as a good whistler.
Ever since my toddler ears first picked up the songs of the birds around our farm, I fell in love with the beauty of their warbling trills and tried to emulate their whistle with my own human version. Now, our father, Russell, he could even warble like a bird. I thought that trait of his to be simply awesome. I’d ask him how he created that mouth sound and so he told me how first, he’d “purse” his lips into a small “O” and whistle a “straight” note. Then, he would make his tongue go from the roof of his mouth (for a high sound), then to the bottom of his mouth (for a low sound). Up and down, faster and faster went his tongue during the whistling of that “straight note” and thus he’d achieve a sort of warbling sound. I was thrilled by his ability to make this type of mouth music and began to emulate his style for days on end until I began to have a little success in imitating Dad’s fine whistle.
Our handsome elder brother, Lowell, had a whistle style that absolutely mesmerized me in those young days on our farm. Little sister and I could be 100 yards away from brother, but when he used his shrill, high-pitched whistle…..it got our attention every time. Whether he was calling our family dog, or signaling Dad during a farming operation, that piercing, powerful whistle was a very commanding attribute that Lowell possessed. I just HAD to learn how to whistle like that!
One day, while down in our dairy barn with big brother, I excitedly kept asking Lowell to teach me how to whistle loudly, just like he could do. I had seen my Grade School classmates, and others, sometimes put one or two fingers into their mouths and could create a whistle that way. That was o.k., I guess, but what if you had really dirty fingers and needed to make a whistle? What a nasty tasting whistle THAT would make, ya? That’s another reason why I wanted to learn Lowell’s way of whistling……..no dirty fingers in the mouth.
Lowell obviously inherited some fun prankster genes from our daddy, because here’s what happened next. That day, for some reason, brother was hand-milking one of our Holstein cows (rather than using the vacuum-powered milker machine). There he was, hunkered down next to the back quarter of the bovine and down by her udder (milk bag). To get close to his work, he was sitting on a little milking stool. With a bucket below the cow’s udder (milk bag), he’d pull-n-squeeze on one cow’s teat, and then a second teat. Each time he squeezed and pulled down, a jet of warm milk would fire down into the bucket. Back n forth he went till that portion of the cow’s udder was empty of milk, then he’d start milking the other two “spigots” 😉
As my pestering requests for whistle lessons continued, Lowell shocked me by lunging from the side of that cow and grabbing me in a fun wrestling match. Being BIG brother, he won, of course, and grabbed some baling twine to tie me up to the haymow ladder that was across from the cow he was milking. I was now his prisoner!!! “O.K., kid, here’s how you whistle loud.” Then he’d demonstrate the loud whistle. Of course, each of my attempts were atrocious and sounded horrible. “Nope, that’s not right!” As a re-enforcer, he now took that cow’s teat and aimed it right at my face. SQUIRT, SQUIRT, SQUIRT, SQUIRT!!! went that hot milk all over my face and body! Being tied up, all I could do was dodge my head, back and forth, in a vain attempt to evade the warm, milky squirt-gunning. “O.k., little brother, let’s try this again. Watch me, then YOU try.” He’d whistle a glorious, screeching high note as a fine example of what I was SUPPOSED to sound like. Did I do it right? NOT!! That warm “fire hose” of a milky jet stream hit me again and again …..in the face and all over my little boy body! I kinda wondered there if I was going to be drowned in that milk bath. Brother and I were both laughing gregariously from this ridiculous, but very fun way of learning to whistle loudly for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.