Watch their aim

dairy cows in freestall barn
(Farm and Dairy photo)

The winter, 1963, I was barely 10 years old and learning how to milk our cows,

night and morning in the cold.

I poured the grain and watched them eat, each cow in her own stall. Their 

stomachs churned away down low, forming cud into a ball.

That cud then slid back up their throat. It seemed a little crude. And when I

quizzed my dad, he said, “It’s undigested food.”

I thought it seemed a little strange to belch up all that food; then start the process

once again with stuff that had been chewed.

My father said, “Don’t worry, son. These cows know what their doin’. It’s in their

genes to ruminate. They just keep on a chewin’.”

“The hay and grain they’re eating is what makes the milk each day. We take it

and we sell it. That’s how we get our pay.”

He then gave me a warning. “Watch those cows that have a cough. If you’re

anywhere behind them, try to stand a distance off.”

That’s all he said about the cough. He didn’t elaborate. But what he was implying

was about to be my fate.

I walked behind old Flossy. She coughed and out it flew. The speed with which it

hit me must have been at least Mach 2.

So, the food that cows are chewing is changing as it flows. What don’t make milk

or muscle, well, out the back it goes.

It hit with such a splatter that my eye was matted shut. I’ve had some worse

things happen, but I can’t remember what.

My father laughed and said, “Too bad! This ain’t a time for blamin,’ the next time

you’re behind a cow. Give heed to where she’s aimin’.”

So back he sent me to the house to get a real quick shower. My mother saw me,

laughed, and said, “You smell just like a flower.”

My mother opened-up the door and handed out to me, a hot wet towel to wipe

my eyes. I still could barely see.

But the towel was frosting over. It was almost 10 below. She said, “Keep on a

wiping son. I’ll fill your tub. Now go!”

The years went by. I milked the cows, so faithful, twice a day. I’ve had some time

to ruminate and now I’ll have my say!

Seemed most my days were milking cows. I can’t say I was bilked. But no matter

how hard I tried, those cows would not stay milked.


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Bryce Angell’s father was an outfitter and guide for 35 years, and Bryce was there to shoe and care for the horses and help him do the cooking. Bryce is from Idaho and still rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas. His poems are mostly of personal experience.



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