Little Granny’s House Part 2

Hand milking may be a lost art.  I'm sure it was better for the cow than milking machines that cause mastitis.

Hand milking may be a lost art. I’m sure it was better for the cow than milking machines that cause mastitis.

This is Part 2 of a 3-part story. Little Granny’s House Part 2 contains memories of my childhood visits to Granny’s farm on Beefhide Creek in Pike County, Kentucky.

Milking the Cow

Being a “city girl,” I was pretty sure milk came from a glass bottle until I spent a week at my Granny’s house. Until then, I had taken a lot of things for granted. When my uncle Vernal (who all kids called “Buddy”) grabbed a milk pail and headed to the barn to milk the cow, I was right behind him.   I watched with interest as he sat down on a little stool and placed a pail under the cow’s udder. So that’s where the milk comes from, I thought! I watched but still nothing happened.

Before I could wonder why the cow didn’t know to turn on the faucet and let the milk flow into the pail, my uncle reached up and took hold of an udder. In a rhythmic motion, he moved his hand in a downward stroke on the udder until the milk began to squirt into the pail. I was smart enough to realize he wasn’t just yanking her udder. His wrist had a unique motion I couldn’t quite figure out. He went from one udder to the next, making the whole process look extremely easy. Then he turned to me and asked whether I’d like to try my hand at milking. I quickly shook my head, realizing where I’d have to place my hand. After the experience with the hen, I wasn’t at all sure the cow would be cooperative and I wasn’t taking any chances.   My uncle laughed a hearty laugh and continued the milking process until the pail was nearly full.

My mother told me the story of how she had once ridden one of Grandpa’s best cows bareback when she was a child.  Grandpa swore she had nearly killed his cow and my mother had gotten in a lot of trouble.  As I surveyed the size of this cow, it didn’t look like something I’d want to repeat.

There was no pasteurization or homogenization of milk. To my knowledge, there was only straining and refrigeration. Milk has never tasted as good (or as rich) as it did then. (There was no such thing as skim or 2% milk.) Nobody got sick from unprocessed milk and it was the best nature could give.

Hand churn

Hand churn

Along with the fresh milk came hand churning and making fresh butter. If there is anything better on hot homemade biscuits than freshly made butter, I haven’t discovered it.

The Barn Loft

After the cow was milked, my brother and I got acquainted with Vernal’s niece Mae, who was a little older than my brother. The three of us gathered butternuts from a tree on the path to the barn then climbed a ladder to the barn loft where we discovered a vice. We cracked and ate nuts until we had our fill.

The Outhouse

Granny had a 2-seater

Granny had a 2-seater

There was no indoor plumbing. Perched on the edge of the creek opposite the road from little Granny’s house was a 2-seater outhouse constructed of rough-hewn lumber. After quickly surveying for spiders, (and splinters), it was time to choose your seat. Sometimes a friend joined you and nobody thought anything of it. That’s the way life was in the country. There was no toilet paper; instead the outhouse was well-stocked with Sears and Roebuck catalogs. A lot of reading and catalog shopping happened while sitting in that old outhouse. The “paperwork” happened after the shopping was done.

Wading and Swimming

We always looked forward to wading in Beefhide Creek.   The water was cool, and the pebbles were rounded.   We either wore shorts or rolled up our pants legs and took off our shoes. (Nobody bought swimsuits to wade a creek.) Regardless of the half-hearted effort, we always come out soaked.

Our favorite past time was wading barefoot in Beefhide Creek

Our favorite past time was wading barefoot in Beefhide Creek

We were very smart about where we waded. We always made sure we waded above the flow of our Granny’s outhouse. The thought that there were outhouses on up Beefhide Creek never entered our minds, yet here I am, still alive to tell this story!

Just above Granny’s house was a narrow footbridge about 35 feet long that spanned the width of Beefhide Creek to the houses on the opposite side where my uncle Vernal, his wife Billie Sue, her sister Mae and Granny’s step-dad Lee lived. The bridge was constructed of logs and boards, just wide enough to allow one person at a time to pass. It swayed as we walked across it and it took me a long time to get up my nerve to cross the bridge to go visit uncle Vernal’s house.

Uncle Vernal and Billie Sue had a pick up truck and they were also rural mail carriers. Nobody we knew owned a convertible, but we got the same pleasure riding in the bed of their pick up catching the breezes while they delivered the mail up Beefhide Creek. Vernal also had a horse, which he tried his best to get me to ride. I would have no part of it. Perhaps it was the memories of the time I tried to ride a horse at Girl Scout camp. The horse reared on its’ hide legs with me on top and tried to throw me. I was terrified and I have never been back on a horse since.

Be sure to read Part 1 first.  To Be Continued with Part 3

Pam Baker, RN

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