Butterfat

July 3, 2012

 

BUTTERFAT

.      When I was a boy Saturday was the traditional day for going to town with the cream and eggs.  It was the butterfat in the cream that put much of the food on our table.  When the whole family made the trip to town my 4 sisters and I were crowded in the back seat of our Model A Ford.  We had to share it with a  cream can and an egg case.  On the way home there was also a box  of groceries and possibly a sack of chicken feed or a block of salt.

We usually hadn’t gotten very far out of town before my mother would ask my dad  how much the cream tested.  When the cream can was carried into the cream   station it was placed on the scales and weighed.   Then they took the lid off the can and stirred it up with a long ladle.  The ladle brought up a sample that  was  placed in a test tube to be put in a  centrifuge.   It was called the Babcock test.  The centrifuge measured   the  butterfat content of the cream.  The farmer’s check depended on that reading.  Farmers hung around town waiting for the cream and egg check.  They took it to the bank to cash it and then went to do their shopping.

Filling those cream cans each week demanded daily discipline and sacri­fices.   Our cows never knew what a milking machine was.  We usually milked 8 or 10 cows.  Each one had her stall in the barn.  She knew there would be some grain and concentrate waiting for her in the box in her stall.  While she was eating her grain we put a rope around her neck just in case she got through and decided to leave before we finished milking her.  When we were finished we opened the barn door and took the rope off.  She took that as a clue that we were through with her and she was free to go back outside.  The milk pails were hung on nails driven in the rafter plate at the back of the barn.  If a cow filled the pail we hung it on a nail.  We started each cow with an empty pail.  We sat on a one legged stool as we milked

In the  hot summer months we often milked the cows in a  small  corral outside.  It was next to the cattle shed so we could milk them inside in case it was raining.  Along about 6:00 in the evening it was usually my job to go to the pasture and bring in the cows.  We never had a saddle horse so I walked.   Sometimes I found them on the back side of the pasture.  A cloud of dust rose as they walked single file down the cow path followed by    the dog and I.  Milking the cows in the open corral demanded more of them.  They didn’t get any grain.  We didn’t even tie them up.  Most often they were tame enough to cooperate.  They were often restless because they were fighting flies.   We got hit again and again by her tail.  Sometimes we had to hold the tail in one hand and milk with just one hand.  When the problem got intolerable we drove them all into the cattle shed and sprayed them with a mixture of  D.D.T.   That gave us some relief for a few days

During the summer the cows got all the feed they needed grazing in the pasture.   When the frost came in the fall we had to feed them until the pas­tures greened up again in the Spring.  In August and September we made hay.  It was put up in stacks to be used in the winter.  Every other day my dad had to bring in another load of hay.  A feed rack was filled in the fall but that was reserved for days when the snow was too deep to get to the hay stacks.  The milk cows were privileged to get grain and concentrate twice a day in the winter.

When the milking was finished we carried the pails to the milk house where we put it through the separator.  It was often my job to crank the separator.   It started slow and hard until I got up the momentum.   It was equipped with a steel ball in the crank that  fell on a metal cap on the crank each time it was turned.   When it stopped clinking it was time to let the milk start coming through.  The separator was a type of centrifuge that separated the cream from the milk.  The cream went into the cream can and the skim milk went into the empty milk pails and was taken to feed the calves and the pigs.  The calves got their portion first.  They were taught to drink milk out of a pail.  At first we had to back them in a corner, put our fingers in their mouth, and stick their head in the pail,.   They thought they had to suck something to drink milk.  After a few days they learned to drink without the fingers in their mouth.  We always had to have a stick in one hand to beat off the other calves so they wouldn’t stick their head in the pail while another one was drinking.

Then the pigs got what was left.  They got theirs in a wooden trough.  It took fast work to feed the pigs.  You had to swing a club and drive them away from the end of the trough and then grab the pail and dump the milk in the trough before they got back.  We simplified that at times by cutting a hole in the fence and sticking one end of the trough through the fence.   Pigs squealed and fought to get in the trough.  They sometimes crawled on top of one another and bit another pig’s ear to get him to pull his head out.

Thanks to the cows, we always had butter which was churned in the crock churn.  In the summer   my mother made cottage cheese from the skim milk .  Whip cream on desserts was within our means too. The cows were very much a part of our lives.  Each one had her name.  We got to know them and they knew us.  It was hard to part with them when they got old.   One time one of our old cows was sold at the sale barn one Saturday.   The next day, while we were eating dinner, the party line telephone rang with the news that a neighbor’s house was on fire.  We dropped everything, grabbed milk pails and ran for the car.  By the time we arrived there was nothing left but smoldering ashes.  We stayed for a while to visit with the neighbors.  On the way home we found that a semi cattle truck had gone off the road and turned over on it’s side.  It was hauling a load of cattle from the sale barn.   All the cows had gotten away except one; the cow we had sold the day before.  The only reason why she didn’t run away was because she had a broken leg.  There wasn’t much we could do, but feel sorry for her.

The butterfat was the most valuable part of the milk.  There was whole milk to put on the table, skim milk for the calves and pigs, and cream for butter.  Then there was the butterfat.  No one really knows what the good life is unless he has learned to get his values right.  He who lives for fun and games lives in vain.  When life is all over, the best he can say is, “I had a lot of fun but I don’t have much to show for it.”  How much better it is to be able to look back and see the good we have done and the people we have helped.

I feel like I have gotten a lot of the butterfat out of life.  I too was living for fun and games until I was 18 years old.  It was then that I met my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He changed the course of my life.  I have no regrets about things I have missed out on; only praise to Him for all the good things He has brought into my life.  Written Dec. 1992

 

Our E-mail address is rusandmargaretgeorge@windstream.net

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