Poems by Dudley Laufman:



for Annie the Herdswoman


It was below freezing

in the milking parlor.

The freshly hosed down cement floor

had a skim of ice,

and though sprinkled with sand,

it was still slippery.

Big Gertrude went down hard,

crying,  sliding off into the pit.

She was a mean cow,

bossing the others around.

A kicker too, bloodied Nigel’s nose.

Serve her right some of us thought.

But you did not push , shove, or yell.


You lay your head

against her side.


Gertrude struggled to get up,

hind haunches first

then the rest of her.

We opened the stanchion

and she limped out

favoring one knee

We sent her around again

this time she picked another stanchion.

No thanks from her.

But you know.





By hand

at the most unusual times

like when he was

playing O Hell

with my father

one night at eleven o’clock

said “Miller,  I haven’t milked.

Get the flashlight

we’ll go find the girls,

bring them in.”

Or the time he

drove down from Moultonboro

to take down the trees

that fell on our house

38 hurricane,

no chain saw

all buck saw and axe.

Made our suburban back yard

into the New Hampshire woods.

At supper he said

“Got to go home to milk,

be back to finish tomorrow.”

He left his cap behind,

smelled of kerosene,

cow and woodsmoke.

I hid it under my pillow

but Mom made me

give it back.





Hoards Dairyman

is far better reading

than an algebra book.

It says

all dairymen

should wear white.

Has pictures,

white coveralls

white shirts and caps.

Must have been for

wealthy farmers

or ag schools

who could afford

the cleaning bills.

We wore mostly

dirty T shirts

and shit covered sneakers.


Newt Tolman wore

tweeds and necktie

when ski-ing,

so at the Salvation Army

I’ll find an old tweed

and start a new trend,

jacket and tie

to the milking parlor,

carry on the tradition

of the necktie wearing

Irish farmer,


on his collar

from dehorning

Kerry Blues.

I will have

Brandenurg Concerto

and Water Music Suite

piped in,

but mostly

its the shirt and tie,

the girls deserve it,

they work hard.




Back in the day

ten cows was enough.

You could name them all,

Carol, Christmas, Buttercup,

Chocolate, Daisy, like that.

Then with the advent of bulk tanks

you had to have thirty cows or more

to fill the tanks.

Became harder to name the cows.

There was Greenfield Farm

almost in downtown Lexington.

Swenson brothers.

Milking two hundred, maybe more.

Used a tape measure

around the cow’s middle,

if she fell beneath a certain weight,

meant she would put more feed

into gaining weight than into making milk,

off to Brighton to become hamburger,

up to Quebec for hay and a few replacement heifers.

Try to name over a hundred cows.

Or Forbes up in Colebrook,

1500 milkers.  They have numbers.


The Luke is milking sixty.

They all have numbers

but he has four boys

who like to name the girls.

There’s 21, Loon,

and her sister 22, Luna,

both red and white Ayrshires

with curling horns.

101, Butter.

Beech with the bell.

!, Icarus the bull.

30, Buddy the other bull.

Both good goalies.

Number 9, Ted Williams for one week,

then she becomes Maurice Richard

and after that, Gordie Howe.

And how could I forget

4, Isha, Number 4, Bobby Orr.



Dudley Laufman has published five trade edition books of poems: AN ORCHARD & A GARDEN (William Bauhan Dudley LaufmanPress 1974), MOUTH MUSIC (Wind in the Timothy Press 2001), THE STONEMAN (Shaker Village Inc. 2005), WALKING STICKS (2007), SHE PLUMB NED, SHE MORE’N PLUMB, (20ll).(Beech River Books), and the chapbooks: SMOKE SCREEN and BEHIND THE BEAT  (Pudding House 2004, 2008), LEFT EYE (2012) Finishing Line Press, as well as numerous other pamphlets, chapbooks and broadsides.

In 2009 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship. He is a recipient of the New Hampshire GOVERNOR’S AWARD IN THE ARTS Lifetime Achievement Folk Heritage Award for 2001. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Award, and is the subject of a documentary film THE OTHER WAY BACK. For more information about Dudley, check out www.laufman.org.