I was one of those lucky kids that grew up in the city, but my grandparents had a farm. It was located close enough to where we lived we regularly visited on week-ends. As I grew older, I spent my entire summer vacation there, working. It was a small dairy, so milking the cows and cleaning the barn were my regular chores. There was also haying season where I bucked bales on our farm, as well as earning extra money haying for others. It was a playground, a way to earn money for school clothes and a classroom where responsibility and work ethic was taught, all in one.The morning ritual was always the same. I’d usually be awake by 5:30 or so, (“half past 5” in Grandpa’s time keeping lingo), but there was an unwritten rule, Grandpa got up first. I’d hear him stir in their bedroom down the hall in the big old farmhouse. He’d get on his clothes and then down the hall he would come, his ill-fitting slippers going “ker-flap, ker-flap” with each step. Still in bed, thanks to his footwear, I followed his progress, descending the stairs, with a “ka-thump, ka-thump” added to the “ker-flap, ker-flap.” Across the main floor he’d go, pausing briefly where I could hear a not so subtle three sharp taps. He was checking the barometer that hung in the kitchen. Not until the house shook with the slamming of the kitchen door and screen door did I jump from bed and begin my day.
I’d be right behind Grandpa. Often he was just headed down the hill towards the barn when, with barn boots on, I’d bound off the back porch. The sun was usually just cresting the eastern edge of the valley, it’s warm summer rays already chasing away the fresh early morning chill. The night pasture would be in full light, the cows already up and taking a few mouthfuls of grass.
Grandpa would go right for the barn and start measuring out the grain for each cow. I would busy myself in the milk house, assembling the milking machines. About the time I’d have the two bucket units ready for the barn, I’d hear Grandpa calling the cows.
“Come boss! Come boss!”It was a sing-song call, with the two words slurred together. More like “Caah-boss! Caah-boss!”
The cows would lift their heads and perk their ears. Knowing the routine, knowing their place, they would wait for the boss cow to begin walking towards the barn before they would then fall into line.
For so many years growing up, that’s how my summer mornings began. Looking back now, I realize what a good life it was.