A time when dairy was everything, and everyone was a friend


I was in the early grades when we started studying the states, and I was offended that the brightly colored symbols on the state of Ohio carried crops and general livestock, but dairy wasn’t given top billing.

Since we lived our lives around milking times every day of the year, I somehow thought that defined our very existence. I was, quite honestly, ticked off that our hard work wasn’t recognized in the history books as well as on the current, colorful maps in the classroom.

Dairy was everything

At that time, in the mid- to late-1960s, many of our friends and neighbors in the community also had sizable dairy herds. We lived our lives around the demands of the clock.

Rising at 4:30 a.m., we milked the herd and finished the chores just in time to clean up and head off to school. The minute the big yellow bus dropped us off at home, we knew there was precious little time to grab a snack before pulling on our farm duds to begin the second shift of the day in the milking parlor and the barns.

Homework had to wait until after supper and dishes. Our routine was so ingrained in us that one particular memory stands out vibrantly.

It was the beginning of a new school year, and the school had begun running two shifts of bus routes, my three older sisters leaving and returning on an earlier bus.

Friendly conversation

It was a sunny fall day, and I was the last child to be delivered home on the latter bus. My bus driver told me he had to stop by the Jeromesville Elevator to talk to the proprietor, Don Glasgo, about something. I knew that grain elevator business like a second home, so I didn’t think a thing about it.

Mr. Glasgo called me by name and offered me a drink and a big, salty pretzel while the two men talked business. I felt a bit like a child celebrity enjoying fine dining as the two men talked on and on and on.

When we finally turned the corner on to our road, I could see my father pacing near the barns.

He had been worried sick that I had been lost for good, a thought that never entered my little mind. I learned later that he had quizzed my sisters to recall when they had last seen me, and the school had been called to see if I had been left behind.

He flagged the bus to a stop before it reached the house, and he hugged me tight as I jumped down off the big bus, surprising me.

Fear, relief and anger

He then instructed me to go in to the house. As I skipped toward the house, I remember hearing his stern voice as he addressed the bus driver, a tone I had never heard from my father. I realize all these years later that it was fear, relief and anger all rolled in to one strong emotion.

All I knew and cared about in that moment was that I had breezed my way out of half of the evening milking.

It was such a different time. We thought nothing of giving directions to total strangers, leaning in to their car to study a map or even inviting them in to our home, and we would ride a bike alone along country roads without a tinge of worry.

I can honestly say that I had never felt anything even close to fear. It was a foreign emotion, and I found it nearly impossible to understand why my father was so upset. Our family farm was our whole world, with school a necessary intrusion, and we spent every day working closely together.

I now realize fear struck my father as a new emotion that day, one of his beloved chicks missing from the nest, unaccounted for, with no explanation in sight.

Feeling safe is much more of a blessing than we appreciate.

It was a wonderful web we had spun together, holding worldly fears at bay. If only the children of today could be so blessed.


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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, and three grandchildren.



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