March 2nd…….“DID YOUR COWS HAVE THEIR OWN SPECIAL SPOT IN THE BARN ON YOUR FARM IN MINNESOTA?”
Little Bossy Betty Bovine was like a Freshman girl entering Holstein High School for the first time. As humans, many of us recall that almost terrifying feeling, too, of wondering, “Where in the WORLD is my Homeroom”? “Which hallway and direction do I turn so that I can get settled and on with school work”? In a cow’s world, all the Sophomore, Junior and Senior cows already knew their place in the “High School” barn each morning and evening as Dad would prepare to milk them. But what was it gonna take to teach the new “student”, Bossy Betty Bovine her way? Well, it would be up to our dear farmer daddy, Russell, to be her teacher and acquaint this young Holstein “lady” with the way barn life worked. Little Betty had been a young heifer gal (not yet having given birth to a baby calf) up to this point in her life. But recently, she had given birth to her first, cute little baby bull calf, so now, she was beginning to “freshen” (as farmers call it) and, like any other Holstein cow, she began producing large quantities of milk. Dad saw to it that she was allowed to feed her little guy as much as he wanted to suckle each morning and evening, but Dad also could begin “harvesting” her remaining surplus milk to bring in money for our daily life on the farm.
As a parallel to this story, many a preacher, as he looks out over his congregation on a Sunday morning, has said (lovingly, of course) that, “People are like cows in a barn, they always go to their same stalls/stanchions every Sunday morning”. Matter of fact, I know some preachers that could check “attendance” on Sundays by seeing who’s “not in their stall/stanchion” that Lord’s Day 😉
It was very common, from one farm to another in those days of long ago, for their herd of cows to automatically go to their own special stall/stanchion every time the barn door was opened for morning and evening milking times. I was always impressed, as a little boy, to see our “Angel” cow come inside our empty barn and she’d head to one stall, and one stall only….her very own #15. The other cows would follow suit by heading for their special stanchions, as well.
On this day, though, it was up to our hard-working farmer father to be the teacher, and Bossy Betty Bovine was gonna be the reluctant and scared “student” in the hallways of this unfamiliar “school”. By milking time, our herd of productive Holstein cows were hungry and happy to get into the barn for food and to be milked. Their udder bags below them were burgeoning with the pressure of gallons of milk, so they were happy, not only for their food and water, but also for the relief they’d feel as Dad would use his vacuum-powered milking machines to suck out that “white gold” and relieve the cows of that milk pressure in their udders.
As Dad opened our “Dutch” (top and bottom) barn door that day, he saw to it that all of his “regular ladies” could enter the barn and head for their own stanchions where they began their joyous munching and crunching. The food was usually corn silage, grain and even a vitamin-rich powder concentrate we sprinkled over the top of each “meal”; which they treated like a dessert. Betty Bovine was trying to get in the barn door with the rest of the “girls”, but Dad would shoo her away……..at least for the moment. Once the regular herd were inside their stalls, Dad then went between the cows to lock their stanchions shut on each side of their necks to gently hold them in their spot while he milked them. Sometimes, poor Daddy encountered what I call, “The Farmer Squash”. For some strange reflex reason, as he’d try to step out from between two cows, they’d squash together and trap Dad with their soft, big bovine bodies. After a few slaps, though, they got the message that Dad needed to get out and they’d separate.
Our father’s strategy was this……..our barn had the capacity for fifteen milking stalls. Fourteen of our cows were now secured in place for this evening’s milking, but there was ONE open stall in position #8 that was reserved for Bossy Betty. Hopefully, when Dad opened that barn door to let her in, she’d get the hint and make a beeline for that open #8 stall, right? NO!!! That ornery little “Freshman” tried to squish her way into every other spot in that cow-loaded barn EXCEPT for stall #8. “Teacher” Dad had to back Betty out from between cows that had to be wondering to themselves, “What’s this youngster up to”? Up and down the back alley of the barn she and Dad went. It’s like she couldn’t SEE that stall #8 was WIDE OPEN and just WAITING for her with yummy food and water. Finally, after what seemed an interminably number of screwed up efforts, Betty actually found her new High School Homeroom and began eating while Dad came up alongside her and locked her stanchion into place. Whew!!!!! There were some lively cow adventures that transpired on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉