December 7th…“HOW DID YOUR FATHER SELL THE MILK FROM YOUR HOLSTEIN DAIRY COWS THERE ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”
The Meadowlark set her warbling tune to that of a new morning as another Minnesota sun rose through the tasseled corn fields in the east. I rejoiced that that golden orb had begun to warm us for another day of life there on our farm in south central Minnesota.
The staccato putter of the Milk Parlor compressor, in our cow barn, could be heard exhausting its spent efforts into the early morning air as our hard-working farmer father, Russell, was finishing the morning milking of our 15 head of Holstein dairy cows. Milk, that delicious, white elixir of life was gently extracted from each cow’s udder (milk bag) by our vacuum-powered “Surge” milker machines, of which we had two. The stainless steel milker “can”, that hung from a wide strap under the cow, could hold about 4 or 5 gallons of milk as its four suction cups alternated sucking from one cow’s teat to the others.
As each bovine’s udder was emptied, Dad would unhook the milker from the support strap (over the cow’s back) and then carry the “Surge” milker to a 10 gallon, galvanized tin milk can. Having been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, he’d pour that milk into the waiting tin vault and then go back to milk the next cow. As each of the 10 gallon cans became full of “moo juice”, Dad set a lid on the can and tamped it down so as not to let a drop of this “cash crop” leave that milk can en-route to the Creamery. Each of our family’s tin milk repositories were either numbered and/or had our family name painted on the can. This was the identifying factor that was employed by the local Co-op Creamery, in our hometown of Kiester. This way, workers at the plant could identify and credit the Noorlun family with the proper amount of money that they gave to us for our milk. With each morning and evening milking process, our father (or big brother Lowell) gleaned about 135 gallons of milk from our 15 Holstein dairy cows. For us, that particular morning, that came out to between 6 to 10 (or more) full milk cans that had to be expediently delivered to our town creamery which resided on the southern boundaries of our hometown and right next to the railroad tracks of our village of Kiester.
With one of Mom’s hearty breakfasts in our tummies, and school books under our arms, big sister Rosie, Cousin Lyle Noorlun and little bitty me zipped out into the brisk morning and headed for our black, 1950 Ford F-100 pickup truck. Cousin Lyle, who lived with us on our farm for about a year and a half, was to be, not only our own private “bus driver” to school that day, but he was also the “morning milk moving messenger” (my term) for our daddy. Lyle’s finger gave a shove on the push-button starter and brought that old Ford black beauty to life. He drove us down next to the corner dutch-door of our barn and parked the rig while he stepped inside and grabbed between 6 and 10 (or more) of the milk cans full of “white gold” to be sold to our local Creamery. With each muscled toss of a milk can into the cargo bed of the Ford, the tin cans sang a clanking symphony of a “milk minuet” in the Key of M! 😉
With milk cans loaded, Lyle (and we school-bound riders) pulled out of our south driveway and headed for town, which was about 3 miles to our east. Driving into the morning sun, we approached our village of Kiester, Minnesota. The Ford, like a horse memorizing its way home, made a natural turn to the right (o.k., with Lyle’s help) at the intersection just past our town’s bowling alley. We were now on the street that led us right into the expansive property of The Kiester Co-op Creamery Association. Shifting into a lower gear, Lyle made a 360 degree turn around, on those large grounds, and then began reversing the truck to the receiving conveyor of the Creamery building.
One by one, Cousin Lyle pulled the heavy milk cans, full of our “product”, from the truck bed and heaved them onto a moving conveyor. Can, after can, with our family name/number on it, began ascending the conveyor until it spun around a little corner and disappeared mysteriously into the Creamery building itself.
Like any business man, our farmer father looked forward to the money he received from the milk sales to help pay our family’s bills and enjoy another day within our fine farming community.
With the last full 10 gallon can of our family’s milk inside the Creamery, Lyle jumped back into the pickup and we chugged our way around the property to the east side of this large dairy processing plant. This time, Lyle backed the Ford up to a long, straight, descending roller track. While we waited, our milk cans inside the plant had been weighed, recorded, emptied of their milk and then thoroughly rinsed and sanitized. The Creamery’s workers would then give each empty 10 gallon milk can a shove out the east-facing side door and the cans began a rolling ride down the descending rollers. Gravity helped them speed up as they chimed against each other and, like cymbals in an orchestra, the cans clashed and ka-banged at the bottom ready for us to toss them back inside the pickup and run over to the school for our day of classes.
This trip to town and the Creamery was a daily process for our farm family until later years when our father installed a “bulk” milk tank in our Milk Parlor. Our cows faithfully produced their milk for us and we, in turn, faithfully cared for them …….day in and day out. It was truly a win-win situation of farm life.
In those later years, before we sold the farm in 1967, a very dear man, named Llewellyn (we all called him Louie) Hintz drove what to me was a giant tanker truck to our farm each day and backed that sparkling stainless steel rig up to our Milk Parlor wall. He’d get out of his truck all full of smiles. For you see, this little farmer boy loved to chat with Louie as he’d take a large hose from the truck, hook it up to a port coming from the bulk milk tank and begin the sucking process to transfer our gallons of milk on-board his tanker with the milk he’d already collected from other area farmers. There was a type of gallon counting device for Louie to see how many gallons he was collecting from each farmer on his route.
I guess between the days of milk cans up to the time we had a bulk tank, you could say we had a “candy bar” farm………..It was sure a MILKY WAY for this Norwegian farmer’s Son 😉