When I started school some of the boys were helping their parents with the milking and I wanted to do the same. My father started me out with an old DeLaval milking machine bucket which had a wide bottom tapering to a narrow opening at the top. From Dad's point of view it was an excellent container to start a child with since it could not be kicked over easily. Milk pails were just the opposite, narrow on the bottom with a wide top.
The DeLaval bucket was very discouraging in that the wide bottom took so long to fill before there was that good foaming, deep milk sound that indicates you are making headway. It was also so tall that it took three cows to fill it and the narrow opening was hard to hit and some squirts would miss making it even longer to fill. It was much more fun to use a milk pail, fill the bottom and hear the deep sound of success.
The next year Paul helped me and we were back to the DeLaval again, he on one side of the cow and I on the other. I still could not reach across and handle the far teats and had to move to the other side till Paul came along. It took us a couple of years to graduate to our own milk pails. That DeLaval bucket was around until I was an adult and then I sent it to the junk pile. Every time I saw it the discouraging memories came back and do even today when I see one in a museum.
On Christmas Eve the four of us children would stand at the house windows waiting for the barn light to go off indicating that our father and the hired man had finished evening chores and were coming in. Soon we would hear the men stamping the snow off their overshoes, going down the basement stairs to change and the slam of the furnace door as more coal was thrown in. Finally the festivities could begin!
Al and Dan Quie, 1958.
Later as a bigger boy I would also be in the barn and start chores early on Christmas Eve and work as quickly as possible so as to get the evening on its way. Then as an adult and father I would finish the milking early and give the cows an extra portion of hay. I would take a last look before turning off the lights and see their baleful eyes and great jaws contentedly munching the good hay in front of them. The horses would be pushing hay aside in their mangers searching for the most delectable morsel and the calves were in their pens practicing being adults by chewing hay when they still preferred milk. As I turned out the lights the warm feelings would follow me to the house as I thought of the contented animals, and the joy of family and Christmas morning church services.
If I began to name all of the family whose memories this old barn revives it would be many lines. A few are: Halvor, Anne, Ellen, Emma, Henry, his son Art, Caroline, Albert, Nettie, Alice, Marjorie, Paul, my wife Gretchen, Fred, Jennie, Danny, and Joel; also, the hired men and their wives, the renters and their families, and finally the new owners David and Nancy Topp, who bought the farm in 1989.
By Al Quie, Minnetonka, MN, January 2004.
Posted February 25, 2004.