Mentors made the difference

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milk cans

(Part Three)

In the 1950s, my parents considered themselves fortunate to have older neighbors with farming experience, willing to share wisdom with the young couple just starting out.

Dad spoke often with his neighbors to the north, Roger and Rosemarie McClure, who had a herd of Holsteins, a couple of dairy goats and registered cocker spaniels which they raised and sold.

With no children of their own, they enjoyed bouncing the baby and watching little Sandie grow. In late summer, 1954, a second baby was due.

On the road as an Allis-Chalmers salesman, Dad would search for phone booths to call home several times a day to see if it was time to make the trip to the hospital. On the day labor pains were reported, Dad rushed from his southern sales area, sweating the whole way that they might not make it in time.

An intermittent, long labor prompted Dad to joke he could have made a few sales and still arrived in time. Two beautiful fair-skinned babies added to the work, “but in a good way” Mom says. She would pack a picnic to take to Dad in the fields at night with the babies in tow so he could enjoy time with them.

Growing family

Dad loved his baby girls, and was thrilled in November of 1955 when a third, Debi, came along. She was a pleasant baby, beloved by all, and would be the only dark-haired child, taking after our Dad. Rosemarie McClure listened when Mom expressed concern over the newborn’s skin issues, and suggested trying goat milk to see if it was an allergy.

Mom hand-milked the goat and it helped so much that they made a deal and Goldie the goat was added to the menagerie.

“I had to keep her tied because she loved to run and jump on everything,” Mom said, “but the little girls enjoyed that goat so much.”

Mr. McClure began having breathing issues, and the couple spoke with my parents about renting their farm. Dad dreamed of one day owning that incredibly soil-rich farm, which shared property lines with the one on which they were raising their family.

Balancing the work

My parents had six Holsteins they were milking by hand, and Dad had just made the decision to soon leave his sales job and farm full-time, so this seemed fortuitous. When I arrived in April, 1959, it was a happy time for this sweet family.

Three big sisters adored the newborn who so rarely cried, the nickname “good little DoBee” from a TV show, Romper Room, became a life-long name. Both my parents told me many times that while others made jokes about the rough luck of having four daughters in a row, they never felt that way.

“Your father, especially, would have had a dozen little girls if I would have agreed to it!” Mom says today. Later, Dad would say his daughters were the best workers anyone could ever hope to know.

In late summer 1962, on the day my parents signed the papers to purchase the dairy farm, black and white photographs show four little girls with big smiles, together holding a silver milk pail while the McClures and our parents enjoyed the momentous event.

Moving west proved helpful to Mr. McClure’s health, and my parents remained in touch with the couple through pictures, cards, letters and even a rare trip, just the two of them, to visit Prescott, Arizona.

Making improvements

Those renting “on the shares” to my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Funk, would often visit from Canton, working at projects to improve Mrs. Funk’s home place. My sister, Debi, recalls them repairing screen doors and other odd jobs, once cutting a large opening in what was likely an old summer kitchen at the back of our home so that Mom and Dad could use it as a garage.

“Our parents had such pride and took such good care of everything, so when the Funks showed up, as a little girl I felt they were trespassing on our home,” my shy sister remembers feeling.

My parents held a great deal of respect for them, and we made the hour-long trip to visit them when possible, four little girls dressed in their Sunday best, returning in time to milk the cows with heavy Surge milkers.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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