Going to go back a little bit here, because I left out things…
Life on the dairy was challenging, at best. I loved all the cows, and still miss them…which is probably why I collect cow stuff. We moved to the dairy in February, the year that I turned 10. The exact week my parents began the take-over, there was an ice storm. My parents knew next-to nothing about cows, and milking, and having 200 head to care for. There was no electricity in our county for a whole week, and only one generator….to cover something like 5 dairy farms. Those poor cows! At best, they got milked once a day during that time, and sometimes it was less than that. For cows used to being milked twice daily, it had to be painful!
During that week, my brothers and I were camped out at a neighboring farmer’s house with his teenaged daughters…it was cold there, too, but at least they had a good roaring fire going!
Like all animals, cows have personalities…some are amusing, some are irritating, some are just plain scary. When we moved to the dairy, we took our milk cow, Milkshake, with us. She was a good old cow that we had been hand milking for several years, but she really couldn’t compete with those other dairy cows. We named most of our cows, and most of the names were based on those cow-personalities. Princess, Queen, Snowball, Milkshake…I’m quickly losing all their names, as it’s been more than 20 years since we lived there.
One year, my grandparents, aunt and uncles and cousins came for Christmas, because it was difficult to travel anywhere when we had to be back to do the milking again in 8 hours. There was ice and snow (unusual for Christmas in SC!), and in the middle of cooking dinner, the power went off. Fortunately, we had a camp stove that my dad set up in the garage, and we were able to finish the cooking out there. That was the year that my older brother and I received a calf as our Christmas present. That calf was a lot of fun…we RODE her…no bit and bridle, just a halter, which made her a little difficult to control! I also had a 4-H heifer then, so I rode Clinton (my heifer), and my brother rode Snowball. I still wonder how we never broke any bones!
On injuries…so many things happened while we lived there….things that could have been disastrous. Cows kick, and step on people, and fling their heads and tails around without real good awareness of what they’re doing to their people…. My father broke a bone in his hand, trying to get a cow to get off of his foot. He also had to get a horse-serum tetanus shot because of running through a fence trying to get away from a cow that was chasing him! My hands were smashed more times than I care remember. We froze in the winter, with ice falling, and slick spots on the floors. One of our barn roofs caved in from snow on it…thankfully we were able to get all the cows and people out when we heard the trusses starting to break. My brother had a couple of run-ins with bees…LOTS of bees and/or wasps. He ended up in the emergency room the last time, getting a shot, because he had more than 20 stings! My dad had a sting that he reacted to very poorly…his poor face was so swollen people didn’t recognize him! I dealt with terrible skin problems on my hands…probably from all the chemicals used in the barn…blisters, dry, chapped, bleeding. The problems stopped when we left the dairy. The worst of the problems we dealt with were my mother’s miscarriages…she had at least 4 during the 5 years there…and her kidney infection that could have killed her. Life on the dairy was HARD, physically.
It was also hard emotionally, especially on my parents. Finances were always tight, and that always means emotionally trying times. Pair that with the long hours, heavy work, and physical problems, and our whole family came away from life on the dairy farm emotionally wrung out.