I was pregnant with my daughter when we bought our first milk cow, Suzie, from my parents. She was dry at the time, being very pregnant. So we didn't have to milk her for a few weeks after bringing her home. I told Cliff when we got her that he'd have to do the milking, because I had tried many times at Grandma's house as a girl, and I just couldn't get the hang of it.
So guess who ended up milking? Practice makes perfect, and after a week or two of sore hands and spending forty-five minutes with my head in a very patient cow's flank, I got it right. And loved it to the point you could almost say I was addicted. So from 1969 until somewhere in the early '90s, I milked cows twice a day, every day. Sometimes as many as four cows, sometimes one or two. We didn't go anywhere overnight, because the cows had to be milked.
Back to Suzie: She was some sort of Guernsey-cross my parents had bought as a calf, and among all the cows I've owned, she was the biggest character. For instance, we used her like a horse.
That's Cliff's sister, Charlene, riding Suzie.
If we wanted to lead her somewhere, no halter was needed. We'd just loop a rope around those horns and she'd follow right along.
Cliff built a metal pole barn on the twenty acres that was our home then, and put a sliding door on it. This gave me a place to milk, and we had room to store hay for our animals for the winter. Suzie figured out quickly how to hook one of those horns on the edge of the barn door and open it wide enough to squeeze through. I'd go out and find her in the barn, happily tearing up hay bales and munching alfalfa in the middle of summer, when pasture was knee-deep. Cliff finally put a chain on the door that we could hook on a nail, to prevent her breaking and entering.
Those horns could be dangerous. Oh, Suzie wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose. But one time when I was standing beside her with my arm around her neck, she swung her head at flies, a horn connected, and I ended up with a black eye.
We had a view of the barn and dry lot from both a kitchen and a bedroom window. If I tried to sleep in on a weekend morning, Suzie would get as close to the house as she could (probably no more than seventy-five feet away) and bellow, glaring at the house. If I tarried too long before going out to do the evening milking, I'd be standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and she'd look me right in the eye through the window and moo pathetically. She liked to be milked on a regular schedule, thank you very much.
When we first bought that place, the fences were in deplorable condition, and Suzie soon became an escape artist. She'd find the easiest way out and make her way to the alfalfa patch. Or a neighbor's cornfield, but that's another story. Cliff spent one weekend building a new stretch of fence, a few feet down the hill from the old fence, between the pasture and our alfalfa. When he was done, he tore down the old fence. Before long, Suzie came over the hill and noticed the fence was gone: she didn't see the new stretch of fence further down, so she thought we had set her free in the world. If you've never seen a grown cow cavort, bucking and running and shaking her head, you've missed one of the funniest sights ever. That's what Suzie did, hopping, skipping and bucking... until she came to the new fence and realized she wasn't free after all. She put on her brakes and looked up and down the new wall of her prison as if to say, "What the heck?"
Suzie is the reason for my love for dairy cows. Suzie is the reason I now have a little Jersey heifer with frozen-off ears named Secret.