Sunday, June 19, 2011

My favorite story from Jim Weldy

I have always liked this story of Jim Weldy's. It was with great satisfaction that I discovered that he'd written it up and posted it on Facebook. I bring it to you here:

With some stories you just don’t know where to start so I’ll begin with the end of the story. This story ends with a group gesticulation with milk glasses. Seemingly simple movements of drink glasses at the supper table don’t really seem “an expressive gesture” as Webster describes gesticulation, even when the movement was in synchronized swim team precision but you should read the story and decide if I over used the word, you see if you think I used the term appropriately.

Raised on a 100 acre family farm and born to the start of the Boomer generation I got to see modern growth and expansion from a slightly different direction as most folk. Remembering my first taste of pasteurized milk in school I wondered why everyone didn’t have at least one milk cow so you could get the good stuff like I had at home on the dairy farm. Bringing in fresh milk still warm and taking a small sip as the cream rose before being chilled was a “MMMMMM” moment. Not that Dairy Farm life was easy by any stretch but it was a grand way and place to grow up.

The first year after purchasing our little family farm the crop was so poor my father decided to plow the corn under as the land had been so depleted by the previous owners misuse that the crop was worthless. So my Father drove Semi truck for income and used Hired Hands for the dairy while he built up the herd and the land. My father found it necessary to add the income from driving Semi Truck on long halls to make ends meet but the land was sound and able to be much improved with modern organic farming techniques. Organic in my youth meant my sisters and brother and I’d be embarrassed by the smell of the organics gathered from cleaning neighbors chicken houses and pig sty waste along with poultry processing waste and the ever present cow manure that was spread on the fields in the spring and winter, ripe when the school bus brought us home in time for evening chores.

Our little farm grew in value and production capacity with my fathers acumen, organic material that sometimes included chicken organs, and our Hired Hand Ralph’s strong back. Ralph was not the natural intellect that might manage a farm but he was a willing worker when given appropriate direction most of which was from my mother as my father was often on the road. At first not fully understanding the precision needed for instruction in every event Mother learned lessons quickly enough. For instance she learned to be very explicit from one time when the onions came up late and we discovered at harvest they were misshapen; twisted. When we asked Ralph about planting onion sets, Ralph remembered deciding the side with the hair must belong on top.

Mother was an English major in college and taught Math as well as English while I was in school so as you can imagine we were expected to use proper grammar, and being the age it was, we used proper manners. Not to say that puns and banter were banned from the supper table for that would have been impossible but such expletive words as “darn” or “shoot” were banned based on there being euphemisms. We often were, however, required to explain he dinner conversation to Ralph when a pun was not obvious - but not always.

I do recall when on a serious note at the supper table we learned that my older brother's I.Q. test placed him in a separate class proving as we suspected that he was very bright. Ralph not wanting to be left out told us he had been asked to take one of those tests once and he remembers having gotten a score that was nearly perfect! Even at my tender age I was pretty sure that meant nearly 100; well likely above 80 at any rate. I tell you this so you might know that Ralph was not inclined to ask rhetorical questions and expound on theoretical concepts but was a more practical fellow.

I recall one eve at supper when my father’s big White Diesel Truck was still warm and hitched to his refrigerated trailer out by the barn. My father said to Ralph, “So I see you have old Pat kept in her stanchion in the milk house. Is she not well?” (all our cows had names even when we milked 50 or more twice a day)

“No” Ralph said, “She Kicked me tonight”. “I’m goin’ out to talk with her about it after supper.” Now I know some of us have pets that have good memories and that Dogs particularly have a great sense of shame, but Dairy cows, while some were smarter than others, - Well let’s just say we all got a good chuckle out of Ralph’s high expectations.

The point of all this has been to give the flavor of Ralph and by flavor I don’t mean his habit of getting his not too clean thumb nail in the butter when he passed it but rather to understand the dynamic of family and farm hand that lead to the following conversation on another occasion when my father was home. “Carl” addressing my father Ralph continued. “What’s the difference between grade A and grade B and grade C milk?” Did I mention My father was also raised on a dairy and as his father died young he carried the responsibilities of life heavily on his back and with college education felt and indeed was more than capable of explaining many things. He replied with a litany of requirements for a Grade A dairy including the depth of cement the milk house needed to have, the temperature required of the milk within the first hour after milking, the distance required between the barn and the well for water used for cleaning the dairy equipment and on and on. Looking like the entire evening was to be used in this explanation Ralph interrupted catching my fathers attention with the second of quiet “Carl, Carl. What I meant was if just a little bit of shit falls in the milk - does it make it grade B?”

As a group My Mother, Father, Brother. both Sisters, and I reached out and in a group gesticulation moved our glasses to the center of the table, and finished our Supper dry with no further mention of grades of milk.

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