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June Dairy Month memories

Agriculture.com Staff 06/11/2007 @ 9:40am

The sudden June shower sweeps across the field, pounding the young corn plants as I scramble for shelter beneath the belly of the "A" John Deere.

This is a tricky proposition as that particular area is already occupied by an unforgiving forest of steel cultivator shanks. Once settled in, I note that one leg is bathed by a comforting blast of warm air from the "A's" fan even as the other quickly becomes soaked. I also discover that positioning oneself in the wrong spot causes one's back to be hit by random drips of scalding oil from the crank case.

I am 14 and, like most teenagers, have a keen sense of how extraordinarily unfair my life is. Being forced to endure this downpour while sitting under an old tractor only adds insult to my already highly-developed feeling of injury.

As the rainstorm rages, I re-review the parade of slings and arrows outrageous fortune has hurled at me.

Casting a glance at the mid distance, I see the most bothersome burr under my saddle, the biggest annoyance of my tortured sojourn in this vale of tears: Our family dairy farm.

Just thinking the phrase "family dairy farm" is enough to set my teeth on edge.

Take the first of those three words, "family." What cruel twist of fate landed me in the midst of such a rabble? I have to put up with no fewer than seven siblings! How can an aspiring Hugh Hefner or an undiscovered Dean Martin hope to reach even the lowest rung of the "cool" ladder when yoked with such an embarrassingly large number of siblings?

Then there is the "dairy" part of the equation. For some unfathomable reason, we have to milk cows twice a day! Every day! We don't skip it for anything! Not even to celebrate the most excellent holiday of all, my birthday!

But that's only the tip of the iceberg of suffering those cows cause. We live by the rules of the cows' lactation cycles; our fortunes rise and fall with the numbers the milk truck driver perceives when he squints at the stainless steel dip stick hauled up from the belly of our milk tank.

This leads to the "farm" part. Dairy cows, in order to give milk in acceptable quantities, must be provided with acceptable foodstuffs. This includes mass quantities of alfalfa hay, corn silage, processed corn and so on.

My parents, being of the obstinate ilk, insist upon raising and harvesting these crops themselves. What's more, they also insist that we -- my siblings and I -- assist with this growing and harvesting! And then hand-feeding said fodder to those unappreciative cud-chewers!

Does any of that contain even a sliver of logic? Why couldn't my parents simply, I don't know, have money? Why do they stubbornly insist upon earning it? And making us -- most importantly, me -- help?

At times like this I imagine my life is all part of a bizarre ruse. I fantasize that someday soon my REAL parents will show up.

One glorious morning, a small luxury jet will land on our gravel road and taxi to a stop near our mailbox. A man dressed in an impeccable tuxedo and wearing white gloves -- Thomas, the family butler -- will open the jet's door and a gorgeous couple will float down the ladder.

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