1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Where's my milk maid?

Where’s my milk maid?

I was not born to be a farm girl. I was meant to live in the center of a large city. Nevertheless, I began an unexpected venture as a milk maid.

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.

www.popscreen.com I love to wash and disinfect these!

I love to wash and disinfect these!

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?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. xerxeska says:

    We didn’t have cows to milk when I was young. Instead, we had two goats, a few chickens and a turkey. Quite a zoo. We boys were not allowed to do anything with the animals and birds. We didn’t have to. We had a maid-cum-cook who took care of everything. She joined us as a young girl from Goa. She was skinny (no offense, Mary). She left us only when she died after almost fifty years of working with us. Her name was Rosalind and she soon became part of the family. She was very versatile and agile. She would shinny up the coconut trees we had growing in our garden and knock down coconuts for us to drink the milk and eat the soft sweet pulp inside. She also milked the goats, collected the eggs the chickens had laid and on one special occasion, decimated a turkey for dinner. She gave me the first cigarette I ever smoked. I was 10 at the time and coughed half to death. She 3was very amused by this and while I was gasping for breath, she was laughing her head off. So we brothers didn’t have to help our parents with any milking or cleaning of the vessels used for collecting the milk. She did it all. She never took a day off except to go to church on Sunday morning Mass. I remember once asking her why she never took a holiday to go to home to Goa. “Chee” she said (Chee was her favourite expression of derision) “This is my home.” After she died, we blessed God for every moment he allowed her to be with us.
    So, no. We didn’t have to trudge up and down icy hills with pails of milk. For two reasons. One. It does not snow in our part of India. Two. There was always Rosalind. .

  2. Elle Knowles says:

    Isn’t it great when we can make light of the chores we did as children? We thought it was hard work and not fair we had to pitch in to help. What we didn’t know was that we were learning that life isn’t always fun and games and what we did then was preparing us for that life.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Elle, I think we do too much for our children nowadays. We learned that you don’t stay home with a little headache or stomach ache. You get up and go to work unless you are very sick.

  3. Did you walk 5 miles to school in waist deep snow too? Lol.. You’re sounding old like me. I can say we had beef cattle like I still do but we always kept 1-2 dairy cows for orphan calves or twins. There have been times I’ve milked. I did slop the hogs every morning with real slop that we cooked. They don’t do this today. I raised some hogs the old fashioned way not long ago. It works just as well but it’s hard to find the “shorts” to make the slop.
    Nice post my friend. I enjoyed it.

  4. suzjones says:

    I loved this story. I really did. But was it wrong of me to be singing a little ditty in my mind whilst I did?
    “Mary the milk maid was milking a cow.
    The problem was Mary she didn’t know how.
    Along came the farmer and gave her the sack.
    So she turned the cow over and poured the milk back”.

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    You put me to shame, Mary. I had to do very little to help except be on my best behavior. I did clean a lot of windows and did the clipping of grass to manicure the lawn next to the walkways and driveway. Oh, and I hung out the sheets to dry when they were washed. Big deal. :/

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      It IS a big deal, Glynis. You did more than many did! I think I did more because I was the oldest girl by 9 and 15 1/2 years. And my brother definitely did a lot at the barn. I only worked there about three months.

  6. I remember milking – and I remember the scorn on the face of the oldest cow in the herd (a jersey) when I had the temerity to try and attach her to the machine. She gave me a withering look, adjusted herself very carefully, and placed one rear hoof firmly on top of my foot. The recollection of that pain is with me still.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, I never milked. I was just the milk transporter, from milking machine to the bulk tank. Those rascally cows loved to step on feet and kick buckets over.

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