Childhood

Oh, that Fresh Dairy Air!

With more than twenty cows and calves living in the barn a short distance away, the faint odour of manure permeated our farmhouse at the best of times. When my dad came in for breakfast after milking, the air quality worsened intensely. The undiluted smell of fresh cow dung wafting up from his pantlegs beside me made me gag.

“Pee-yew! Daddy stinks of cow manure,” I stated dramatically, pinching my little nose between my thumb and forefinger and raising my other fingers high for extra emphasis. I was five or so at the time.

Mom reacted immediately. “You should be thankful for Daddy and the cows. Daddy works really hard to put a roof over your head. The cows gave us this milk to put on your cereal. The next milk cheque will buy the new shoes you need for Sunday School.” In hindsight, she may have had a twinkle in her eye while saying this. It was a bit over the top. At the time, I absorbed her scolding at face value and hung my head. I knew I had a cheeky streak.

Fortunately, my parents took action. Mom moved my chair to the other side of the table, beside my sister. Dad bought some coveralls to wear over his overalls in the barn. He started to come into the house through the basement entrance and leave the manure-splattered outer layer there before coming up to the kitchen for meals. I breathed more easily. My appetite improved.

I now understand that my father and the cows helped me in ways that went well beyond milk to drink and shoe money. They provided ways for me to feel useful. I loved to fetch the cows at milking time, to dole out a portion of feed for each one, or to hold burlap bags for my father to fill with grain for the feed. As well, that steady milk cheque provided a level of financial stability that cash crops alone could not have. This meant my family had the means for me to continue my education when I finished high school.

My parents spent their lifetime in a farmhouse that smelled of manure, seeing to it that I did not have to. I am grateful, now. I guess Mom’s lecture finally sank in.
© 2016 Wilda Bostwick

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