David helped Dad at the barn before and after school. He received the auction money from each male calf. I helped Mom at the house and received spending money when needed.
Late one winter, our hired hand was let go and we didn’t have anyone to take his place. In a moment of supreme martyrdom I volunteered to help during the mornings. I could almost feel my halo glowing and black spots disappearing from my heart.
Despite the fact that Mom and her sisters helped on their farm when her father passed away, she was against my entry into barn work. Reluctantly, Dad decided to give me a try.
For a few months, I got up at five o’clock and helped David carry milk. I did not get paid, nor did I expect to. But I sure did appreciate Dad’s compliments.
Dad filled my pails half full, but they were still heavy for a ninety pound weakling. On weekends I didn’t carry milk; I cleaned the milk house and washed and disinfected the milk pails, milkers, and outside of the bulk tank. This also meant I didn’t have to get up until seven o’clock.
I stuck my long hair inside a hat or kerchief, but the barn smell clung to it anyway. There wasn’t enough time to wash, dry, and curl my hair before school. Half my classmates also smelled like cow, but they were mainly boys. No one ever said anything – to my face.
I was half asleep most mornings since I stayed up late reading. Mom was always awake in the kitchen, even though she didn’t need to get up for a couple hours. After the first few weeks, I asked, “Why do you get up so early?”
“I like to have a cup of coffee with your father and spend quiet time together without you kids.”
Hmmm. My parents woke up extra early just to sit and talk alone. I could sleep until noon if allowed, and saw this as the mark of true love it was.
David was tired in the morning too. He showed me his favorite place to rest between milk loads. We stood on the upper level (about two feet higher) of the milk parlor and draped our bodies over the back of a stanchioned cow standing on the lower section. Ahhh, so comfy, soft, and warm.
One morning, we awoke to find a sheet of ice covering our world. Not yet melting, it clung to telephone lines, tree branches, and brown weeds poking through the last of the snow. The rising sun made our farm sparkle like it was coated in diamond dust.
The icy walk downhill to the barn was an adventure. Wearing rubber barn boots, David and I easily glided down the icy slope of our driveway toward the barn. Dad worried about falling and re-injuring his bad back, so David and I side-stepped back up and supported him on each side.
A little hill about four yards long led up to the milk house door. David and I laughed as we climbed almost to the top, only to slide back down.
“Okay, stop fooling around now,” said Dad. “We’ve got to start milking.”
David crawled up to the door, went through the milk house, and opened the side barn door on level ground for us.
On our return trip to the house, David and I were disappointed to find the ice world had melted.
Lesson learned: With an open mind, this reluctant farm girl discovered a warm resting place, a magical morning, and the satisfaction of helping my family.
Now it’s your turn: How did you help your family?
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