Friday, December 25, 2009

When Chores Came First

Growing up on a dairy farm, I learned at an early age that no matter how special the day chores came first. Always.
Christmas was no exception. Gifts could not be opened until the milking was finished, the cows fed, and the barn cleaned. It was so hard to wait until everyone came in from finishing their chores.

Of course, if Santa left some gifts unwrapped, then they could be touched, but everything else was off limits.

The photo above was taken in the milking barn during the summer of 1973. It shows my brother (Rich), my nephew (Larry), and my mother (Rosa).

All of the grandkids spent summers on the farm and learned to milk, drive tractors, and work in the fields. It was a way for them to stay busy and to make some money.  I had just graduated from college when this photo was taken.
My sister, Evelyn took this photo of my mother on Christmas day 1987. Mom was 74 years old and still working in the barn every morning and night. She dressed in layers and cut the right arm of her shirts short so it would not get wet when she cleaned the cow's udders.

Evelyn worked in the barn whenever she came to visit. It allowed her to spend more time with Mom. Everyone in the family calls her Sis. I didn't even know her real name until I was about 10 years old. "Evelyn" still feels foreign on my tongue: she will always be "Sis" to me.

My family operated the dairy over forty-five years. It started in a small barn with two stanchions. The milk was collected in big stainless steel buckets that had to be carried to the bulk tank and emptied.  A new barn was built in the 1960s with six stanchions and a glass pipeline that carried the milk directly to the bulk tank. Milking was faster and easier but still an awful lot of work, especially on sub-zero days.

There was always coffee in a thermos in the barn and treats, too because Mom and Rich ate their breakfast in the barn while milking. Mom worked on word search puzzles or read quilting magazines and Rich took cat naps while the vacuum machine milked the cows.

I treasure this "portrait" of my mother, sitting at the end of the barn, drinking a cup of coffee. I hear the rhythm of the compressors, the soft clink of the cow's neck tags against the feed bin as they eat ground oats, and the muffled songs coming from the radio in the adjoining room.

It was imperative to develop patience "when chores came first."


4 comments:

  1. Nancy,

    I loved reading this. Now I see who you got your work ethic from.

    Tracy

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  2. a beautiful, beautiful blog entry, Nancy. I love it. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Every history is precious...thanks for sharing. I'll bet you don't do any crafting till your "chores" are done:)

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  4. I love the photo of you mom. She reminds me of my Granny. Such a hard working woman. Did what had to be done.

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