Monday, August 31, 2009


Don't know if this is a repeat memory or not.

When my grandparents had their dairy farm, I used to go up by bus and stay for a couple of weeks every summer. I took the bus to New York City and then the Trailways bus up to Fonda New York. My grands would meet me in their red pick-up truck. One time on the bus, I sat with a teen from Germany named Theda Oh Ling who was visiting relatives. We did correspond by mail for awhile and that was pretty cool. My mother would pack up veal cutlet parmesan sandwiches on hard rolls for me and a variety of snacks. When I wasn't engaged in chattering with the grown-ups on the bus, I ate.

In high school the biology nun (who had been told by the math teacher perhaps?) had gotten upset with me because I was talking to some of the other train riders on my way home from school. One of them was a cool guy with a mandolin. I had my guitar with me and we made some music together. I knew all the regulars on the train (as well as on the buses that I was supposed to be taking back and forth to school). I enjoyed many conversations and didn't see what the big deal was.

Ah, but I digress.

It was at the farm one Sunday morning that I was greeting by the sight of a rooster and a hen doing it in the driveway right outside my window. It was also at the farm that I helped yank a calf out of a mother cow who was having difficulties. And there that I also learned about the breeder. The breeder came whenever a cow freshened. First he would shove one long-gloved hand up her rectum and pull out all of the shit. No one explained why to me so I can only guess it was so his tube of made-up serum would have the best shot at connecting with her ready egg.

Then he would take the serum in a tube and shove it into the cow (not into the rectum). Then he would clean himself up and leave. My grandparents never went for having a bull (or if they did he was short-lived. Bulls are troublesome and ornery for young farmers and these two were in their sixties when they got the farm). There was also a chart on the wall of the barn that I found fascinating. On the chart was a picture of a cow and arrows pointing to all of the things that could be bred for in a calf-- things like strong hocks and milking speed. Yes, milking speed is genetically determined in a cow.

There were two German Shepard Dogs that came with the farm-- Teddy who was a small male, and Spooky who was regular-sized but white and afraid of thunderstorms. Both would round up the cows to bring back to the barn daily. Later on when my own dog Herbie joined the fray briefly, Herbie would run past the stantions and each cow would lick his coat as he went by. Herbie also bit the milkman (milk truck guy who came to pick up the milk-- in earlier years my grandfather and I would take the milk to the dairy in old fashioned milk cans on the back of his red truck) several times. Herbie was a fear biter I found out later so he had a bad end. But he did like his time on the farm. Spooky was notable for paying the most attention to me as a child and also he would come running whenever my grandfather opened a roll of peppermint (registered to) Lifesavers (no infringement intended). Spooky loved those things.

My grandmother had a huge garden and her tomatoes and other vegetables grew quite famously. Mornings would often find her out and about collecting spider webs still dewey. She would send them off in an envelope to some hospital in the midwest who used them for stitches or research or something. The hospital would send her a dollar for each web, which in those days was quite a bit of money.

Recently, I found a friend who also remembers relatives doing the same thing with the spider webs. Sometime perhaps I will do more research as the sending of spider webs for cash is rather intriguing to me.

sapphoq on life