Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No More Time for Milking

[Waking up John Book]
Eli Lapp: 4:30. Time for milking.

--From the movie Witness

I'm a milk maid.

Okay, that's not exactly accurate now because it's been years since I left the dairy farm, but my dad still milks cows every morning and every night at 4:30--twice a day, 365 days a year. Cows don't take a day off, so neither does my dad. And with very, very few exceptions, he hasn't take a day off since he started dairying in 1979.

So, imagine my surprise when he suddenly announced on the phone on Father's Day that he might have just sold his herd. SOLD THEM! Just like that. There are a couple of young farmer brothers up the road a piece who are looking for a herd. (I like to say, up the road a piece because it's just so darn farmy.) My dad just casually mentioned to his dairy rep that he may be ready to sell and a few hours later he got a call and then a visit from these next-generation dairymen.

My brothers and sister and I would all be pretty elated to see my dad take a day off. We have already started whispering about all the possible camping trips and fishing forays and basement finishing we could do with him. "Let's have him help us build a cabin." "Let's go on a cruise." "Let's have him just come and hang out with us for a while!" "Let's have him work on my car!" I don't think we can think of anything cooler than having our dad at our disposal for play (and some pseudo-work) time.

But sell the cows? It's kind of strangely bitter sweet. I have such a strong and grounded identification with being a dairy-farmer's daughter. My identity is tightly wound up around that. I'm not very patriotic about the United States. (Can't in fact stomach much hand-on-your-heart elitism). But get me talking about Southeast Idaho farm life and I get a little teary and sentimental. It's a hard life, but it's a good life.

I got to grow up with the best of both world's. I had an idyllic childhood with a cookie-baking, jam-making, story-reading mother and a father who was just outside when I got home from school. My dad has a Master's Degree and my mom's an RN, so I got an appreciation for education as well as a daily lesson on hard work. I'll never be able to thank my parents enough for that.

And no matter what happens to the cows in the next few weeks, I'll always be a dairy-farmer's daughter.

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