THAT GERTRUDE COW  

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.

 

HOW BOB BROWN MILKS HIS THREE JERSEYS

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.

 

HOW TO DRESS FOR MILKING

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,
bloodstains
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.

 

NAMING THE COWS

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.

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