Last century in the mid-fifties, my brother and I, hardly knee high to a bullfrog, had home-chore responsibilities assigned to us by our parents. These chores, such as gathering hen eggs, slopping the hog, shelling corn (feed for the animals), feeding the cow and milking, had to be completed before and after school.
My older brother did the milking because he was higher up the frog’s leg than me. To the best of my memory, milking had to be done twice each day until the cow dried-up. I think that my brother James quickly grew to detest this chore as well as our “bitter-weed” eating moo-cow.
Our milk cow was very gentle but sometimes she would swish her cockerburr laden tail into his face. Plus at times, she would lift her leg and, if he was slow to react, put her foot smack-dab in the bucket nearly knocking him off his perch, a small short milking stool. I thought this scene was the funniest thing but James did not seem to sense the humor.
A kicking ornery cow is not a well-loved animal where I come from and is so vexing that it would make a preacher cuss (Southern phrase).
What is a cockerburr? If raised in the Deep South as we were, one would know all about cockerburrs. Some people simply called them burrs. Cockerburrs are seedpods with short, prickly barbs that somehow grab or grasp anything fuzzy, often finding their way into a bushy fuzzy head of hair. Now if a person ain’t never had a head full of cockerburrs then they ain’t gonna understand how difficult and sometime painful it is to remove them. Burrs are Mother Nature’s self manufactured Velcro. Rest assured, Man-made Velcro does not hold a candle to the clinging ability of the burrs from Mother Nature.
I remember our longhaired Cocker Spaniel being completely covered in the aggravating things, hitching a ride in his coat and spreading its seeds. They also found their way to our cow’s tail. Yes, the same tail that often slapped my brother in the face.
Daddy named our so-called gentle, tail-slapping milk cow “Old Bessie”. Now when Old Bessie pulled those hoof-kicking, tail-swishing antics on my brother, he applied several additional, shall we say, embellished names to our beloved Old Bessie.
As unhappy as all this made my brother, I believe that Old Bessie had scads of fun including the enjoyment of routinely getting her udder washed with warm water prior to the milking. Gazing into Old Bessie’s face, I swear that I could recognize a smile. She smiled like a goat snacking in a briar patch and did it while contentedly chewing her cud.
We consumed this "udderly" delicious sweet milk during most of our family meals. Sometimes Mother put the milk aside and allowed it to sour and afterwards churned it to make butter. A by-product to the butter making process is buttermilk of course. Once pored off and refrigerated it's gooder'n grits (Translation: It's delicious!). She also used the by-product to make buttermilk cornbread or buttermilk biscuits, which we enjoyed at breakfast, dinner and supper. That’s correct, we enjoyed dinner around 12 o’clock noon and the last meal of the day was supper. The only time we use the word “lunch” was when we asked for a lunchmeat sandwich. Lunchmeat is short for luncheon meat.
After making and molding the butter, it was placed in the frigidaire® (In those days we called all refrigerators “frigidaires®” regardless of the brand name.) Later, after removing the one-pound blocks of butter from the molds, she wrapped them in wax paper. Mother exchanged the butter at Cole & Huggin’s Grocery Store for credit toward groceries. She did the same with extra chicken eggs and in-seasoned purple-hull peas that we had gathered.
I always delighted in traveling, almost every Saturday afternoon, to downtown Waynesboro, Mississippi and visiting the Cole & Huggin’s Grocery Store.
I still have and cherish my Mother’s old churn and butter molds.
Oh those were the days!
Copyright © 2011 Michael Hollingsworth All rights reserved