I was talking with my oldest son awhile back, and something came up about a movie.  And as I started to explain whatever it was it occoured to me the boy at the young age of 46 really knew nothing about handling live stock or any of the things I had been exposed to in Missouri.  Now the farm kids called me a city-slicker because I lived in town.  but living in town did not insulate me from the farm life.  My step-grandparents lived on a 280 acher hard scramble farm in Southern Missouri three mile from the Arkansas line.  It was rocky, hill country, with tree covered hills surrounding the bottom fields and pastures.  there was a year round trickle of water running in the creek bottom.  Somewhere up the line    the water came from a spring, it was cold year round.  However it was not enough to water all the stock so wells had been drilled at different points around the property.

     They were not really in a money making position, so hillbilly ingenuity prevailed there.  The main stock tank was located quite aways from the house Central between the milk and hay barn and the hog pens, and later just up the hill from the new chicken house.  It was just a old pump that was meant to be operated by the usual handle.  But a old automobile gas engine had been mounted beside it and a clever           crank contraption  attached to the transmission  spindle that connected to the pump shaft.  Every evening they would crank up the engine and let it run until the tank overflowed.  a channel had been dug to a lower pond for the run off.  the engine was protected from the elements by a sheet of steel roofing bent at a 90 degree angle over it. (like I said we were hillbilly stock).

     Water was hauled by barrels in the back of the old pickup truck up hill to the hog pen.  and later down to the chicken house where barrels set up in the air out side and the water transferred by buckets.  Once the barrels at the chicken house were filled the water was fed to the chickens by modern      gravity fed automatic   watering stations.  A mixture of the primitive and the new.

    Now bear in mind these are the members of the Christman family of my step-mother and they did not get eletericty     until 1952.  Until that time refrigeration was by bulk ice brought from town, heat was wood stoves including cooking, and lighting was by kerosene lanterns in house and barn.  Only a few years before was a gas operated Farmall Tractor purchased.  Before that all farm machinery was pulled by a two horse team,  Bell and Star.  Life was hard for these people but they were upright and honest and-hard working, and it was a full family affair.  and I was blessed to have had the opportunity to witness a little of it before it passed.

     The grandfather on my mothers side made his living plowing garden plots around town and hauling trash in his two mule wagon.  they were the famed Missouri Mules big creatures and strong as hell.   That little bit of exposure gave me enough         interest to try to learn as much as i could through other means, such as reading, perusing old pictures and catalogs and watching movies a second or more times to study the harnesses and handling of stock.  I always tried to ride on top of a stagecoach or wagon with my kids just so I could look at the harness and reins on the animals.  We did not have much chance to ride any of the stock on the farm.  The old plow horses were not riding stock and did not like it at all.  Old Bell was going bling and Star would run you under a low tree limb to knoc you off her back.  Plus there was no saddle and their backs were too broad for our short legs to grip.

     The main animals on the farm were the milk cows and the hogs.  that was where the money came from.  Granddad would slaughter a big hog in the fall each year and keep some of the meat in a rented freezer in town, and would sell a  couple of hogs at the stock auction.  The cows were the chief source of income.  They were milked each morning and evening, and the milk placed in stainless steel ten gallon cans for pick up by a dairy out fit.  The milk was ran through a cream separator and stored separately.  Care was taken to not mix the cans as a higher premium was paid for separated milk.  The old dog named Captian mentioned in earlier chapters often would run out to bring in the cows for milking from the pasture, but was not really needed.  Grandpa would head for the barn calling WHOOOOOEEEE and the cows would already be on the way in from the far pasture. 

    What many people do not know or realise is cows need to be milked twice a day every day.  Just think of it in relation to your own bladder when it is full it needs to be relived.  A cow cannot milk its self or get rid of milk by its-self.  If a cow is not milked regularly it will go sour and shut down production.  That is why a small farmer is literally tied to his farm.  If he has no one to do the job for him he has to do it his-self.  Cows are creatures of habit they will go to their own stall to be milked.  Granddad had between 11 to 13 cows at all time.  and they had their own pecking order, there were five or six milking stations.  the older most senior cows would come n first and go to their station.  As I said granddads farm was really pretty primitive, for many years.  Later after I came to California he built a new milking shed with a raised platform for the cows and eletric milking machines. (I bet it was fun for a while breaking these cows into that process.  the milk was pumped to a separator as it was extracted simplifying his labors. )  But back to the old days.  The cows would come to their manger, milk station, fresh hay would have been forked into the manger when the cow stuck it’s head in a simple board hinged at the bottom pivoted into place basically locking the neck in place for the milking.  Sitting on a three legged stool with a galvanised milk pail in hand they cow was milked by hand as seen in movies.  Now these cows became accustomedto a certain individuals hands and touch and would not tolerate someone else.  I found this out the hard way I tried to milk one named ginger at the touch of my hand she kicked me in the knee almost crippling me on the spot.  that cured my desire to learn to milk.

     Hogs are mean and aggressive, and if they do not know you you better be on the look out.  And they will eat anything they can get their teeth onto.  I have seen them grab a snake and eat it alive.  I have read accounts of them feeding on Civil War dead, and attacking wounded at night at the battle Prairie Grove Arkansas .  In the TV series on HBO , Deadwood, the china-man fed dead bodies to his hogs and I for one do not doubt it could happen.  My grandma used to say she did not care what they did to her after she died, You can feed me to the hogs, she use to say.  Also knew a woman with a crippled hand who was eating a something as a small child and a hog grabbed it and part of her fingers.  A huge boar is scary, but a female with a litter is to be really respected.  those babies are cute but you want momma pended up before picking the babies up.  Also it is known for them to eat deformed and still born babies.

     Well I had intended to get into some observations on handling of teams of horses, and wagons but will reserve that for later.  Expect next time I should finish my discourse on Dallas Stoudenmier in Old El Paso.

ramblingbob rambling on out of here



  1. M. Says:

    It would be more correct to compare a cow’s need to be milked to a human mother’s need to be milked, rather than a bladder. I’ve heard a lot of people express the belief that cows naturally ‘need’ people to milk them or else — i don’t know — they’ll explode or something. I’m not sure where this idea comes from. Cows, like other mammals, produce milk during and after pregnancy. When the calf no longer needs milk, it dries up. Dairy cows are impregnated about once every two months in order to keep the milk flowing. I’m sure you knew this, of course, but I figured I would clear this up for some of your readers who might not be aware.

  2. ramblingbob Says:

    Well yes I knew most of this, on a small farm like my grandparents ran, As long as the cow was milked it kept on producing. I knew if they were not milked they dried up, but also if not milked they would dry up. also if they were not milked on time they were in pain also. also sometimes their milk would go sour, I suppose due to a virius or perhaps from something they ate. all I knew was my grandpa was not happy when it happned. They never impregenated their cows to keep them going, actually I don’t even know if they were aware of the process in those days in the early fiftys. but thanks for your comments.

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