The right words can change world


My son, Cort, has become friends with a girl who is visiting here from Japan this school year.
He told us that he is teaching her fun English slang words, and she is enjoying every minute of it. Quite obviously, so is he.
This brought back some great memories for me of my senior year of high school during which I became friends with Christine, an exchange student from Switzerland.
Christine embraced every single moment of life, and thrived on any new learning experience. It was remarkable to see our dairy farm through her eyes, as she asked questions we no longer thought to ask.
Farm slang. We had lots of farm slang that made no sense to anyone else, and especially not to a Swiss city girl. She chuckled as we taught her some of these silly terms and she struggled to make sense of them.
“Heads up down the hill!” we would often shout as a stubborn Holstein headed in to the milking parlor.
Translation: Make this hard-headed milk cow stop at the first available stanchion.
Christine learned that as this order was shouted out, the person in the milking parlor had to become part linebacker and part prison warden. That cow had to know who was boss, on no uncertain terms.
“But why are some of the cows so stubborn? Why do they care where they stand to be milked?” Christine asked me.
I had no idea why some heifers didn’t want to be the first cow in the standing line of stanchions.
Real education. She learned that “junker cow” meant the heifer was to be held back, placed in the “spare bedroom” until the end of the milking, and the milk was to be dumped down the drain.
“That is so fun to say!” she said as she repeated “junker cow” in her elaborate accent.
“Kicker!” was another term to which Christine learned to pay close attention. We had only a few of these in the herd – a high-spirited cow or two who did not like to stand still to be washed, dried and milked.
So, the strange-looking apparatus came off the back wall and was placed near the back of the cow and cranked down, making kicking and prancing more difficult.
Can I do this? “Catch the auger” was a term that became Christine’s favorite. It just meant flipping a switch to fill the grain bins in the milking parlor after each cow was given a crank or two of grain while being milked.
“I love this – could this be my job?” she asked with sparkling eyes and her warm grin.
Of all my life-long school friends, Christine became the most adept at helping in the barn. Most others had long since learned to schedule their appearance at my house long after the milking had ended for the day.
Not Christine! This daughter of a Paris fashion designer and a Swiss engineer decided that the challenge of dairy farming was a joy.
We joked that Christine might decide to become a dairy goat farmer on the mountains of Switzerland. Instead, she became an interpreter for the United Nations.
I wonder if those English slang words ever come back to her, prompting a grin as she remembers her days as an American farm girl.


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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.