In the fall of 1967, Cliff and I bought our first home, a little shack of a place on twenty acres. We'd been renting a mobile home from my mom and dad and, before moving, we'd purchased a first-calf Hereford heifer from a farmer-neighbor. That's her in the background. She had a lovely black heifer calf, and, being beef stock, had only enough milk for her baby.
My parents had a few milk cows and mentioned they'd consider selling us one they had raised from a calf... Suzie. Cliff was interested, but I told him I certainly wasn't going to milk a cow twice a day. I had tried unsuccessfully to milk, as a child.
He'd do the milking, he said. And brought Suzie home. I think perhaps he might have milked her twice, after we bought her. He worked a job; I didn't. I felt sorry for him, struggling to milk that cow with his big butcher's hands. So, although I had two babies to tend, I took over.
Suzie was patient enough to stand for forty-five minutes while I pulled and squeezed and pinched and begged milk from her capacious udder, and before long I was not only milking her in fifteen minutes' time, but enjoying it... except when it rained, because we didn't have a shed or barn yet.
In the picture here, you see Cliff's sister, Charlene, sitting on Suzie. There's nothing restraining the cow. She was that gentle. We have another picture of her with a saddle on, and three kids aboard.
We built a barn that first summer and put a sliding door in... which Suzie learned to slide open using one of her horns, so she could help herself to the hay inside. Cliff had to install a latch on the door. If I slept late on a summer morning, she'd get as close to the house as possible and bawl loud enough to wake the dead, until I went out to do my chores. She liked to be milked on schedule.
That cow instilled in me a love of dairy cows so strong that I sometimes had six cows milking at once. I milked twice a day, every day, for over twentyyears. I eventually graduated to purebred Jersey cows, and we sold Old Suze; we never did know for sure what breed she was, but I'd say mostly Guernsey.
I loved my Jerseys, but none of them had the personality of Suzie. If cows go to Heaven, I'm sure she's there.