How many times have you heard "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", and, "don't look a gift horse in the mouth"? Profound statements, right? And how about "there's no use in crying over spilt milk"? Okay, let me tell you that I've had plenty of reasons to cry over spilled milk.
One such reason occurred when I was about seven years old and my folks still operated a dairy. Of course, to have heard my dad tell it, the dairy "ran" them more than they ran it. Regardless, and if my memory serves me correctly, we milked fifty to sixty head of cows twice a day, seven days a week.
Inside the dairy was a large milk cooler in which the daily gathering of milk was stored. As you know, milk sours easily and must be stored at a temperature of around 33 degrees – just a whisker above freezin'. Now, to an ol' country boy like me, a tall, ice-cold glass of milk on a hot summer day just couldn't be beat. Neither could the opportunity for me to impress a citified nephew from Shreveport, either!
Mike had been visitin' for a few days and we had worked up quite a sweat with our traipsin' all over the countryside. When I convinced him that we needed a glass of milk to quench our thirst, he readily agreed and headed toward the house. Grabbing him by the arm I said, "Wait a second. You know they ain't gonna give us no milk now. They'll say it's too close to supper. Come on down to the dairy barn and I'll get you a glass of milk down there." With that, we lit a shuck for the dairy.
Now, I'd already told Mike our folks didn't need to know about us gettin' the milk from the dairy barn's cooler. But what'd he do? That's right, he made a bee line to the house, shoutin' 'n wavin' the glass of milk like it was gold bullion. "Looky here what I got!" he bragged. If I coulda caught 'im, he'da swallowed the milk, all right..., glass and all!
But the damage had been done and Dad knew we'd tampered with the milk cooler. Naturally, he was concerned that we'd spilled three hundred and fifty gallons of milk, which was a big chunk of the family's income. And in gettin' our glass of ice cold, raw milk, I did manage to spill, at the most, two teaspoons of the white liquid. In case you didn't know it, two teaspoons of milk on a concrete floor, with a bit of water added to wash it down the drain so Dad wouldn't notice, looked exactly as if I spilled 350 gallons. The tongue lashin' I received wasn't so bad...., wish I could say the same for the whuppin'!
And Mike? He got off scott free! No one said a word to him..., and I just hated him for it. Of course, I lived over it, but I ain't fergot!! In fact, if he wasn't such a good nephew today, I might remember it more often than I do!
Another reason for me to cry over spilled milk occurred when I was about ten years old. My folks had stopped operating our family dairy and had sold all the cows and equipment..., except for one cow, that is. They said we kept her for milk and butter. Now, as much as I would have liked it otherwise, that ol' cow didn't give butter.
Good ol', home made butter was made by churnin' milk. I oughtta know for I've "been there, done that!", and at an early age, too. When I was about six or so, I remember watchin' Mom as she grasped the churn handle and plunged it up and down, up and down. And to me, bein' a youngster who "didn't have anything to do", it looked like fun. Wasn't long before I realized why my mother was so tickled when I asked if I could churn for a while. Her "while" turned into a longer spell of time than I wanted. By the time the butter was butter, my arms felt like a ton of lead.
Anyway and like I said, they kept the one cow for milk and butter. I soon discovered it was to put me to work 'cause every evening I made the transition from Tarzan to Milkman. And since we no longer had milking equipment, the only way to get milk from the cow was by hand. It wasn't like churnin'; pumpin' the tail up and down didn't work no matter how many times I tried it. Regardless, I soon discovered another reason to cry over spilled milk.
I'm not sure if the cow didn't like the sudden surprise of me puttin' my cold hands on her udders, or if she just wanted to be nasty. A cow can be cantankerous, ornery, and just downright mean, you know. Whatever the reason, every now and then she'd haul off and kick the bucket. Maybe she was tryin' to kick me, but the almost-full bucket ended up bottom up'ards and me covered in milk.
Many times I wished the spill was of her warm, rich, blood rather than her warm, rich milk! I guess what really made me mad was the look she'd give me right after my milk bath. It was almost as if she was grinnin' at me!
Galen White lives in Homer. His column runs weekly in the Minden Press-Herald.