During part of my father’s farming days he supplemented his dairy business with a milk route that carried milk from neighboring farms to a creamery in a nearby town. In those days dairy farmers put all of their cows in the barn at once and milked them with a vacuum system, one or two at a time.
The milk was poured from the milking machine into 10 gallon cans, covered tightly with a lid and cooled in a water tank. Full, the cans weighed 100 lbs. The cows were milked two times a day, which meant a farmer might have five to ten cans or more to be picked up every day. My dad’s job was to drive a truck to all the farms on his route, load the cans in his large truck and drive it to the creamery. Think back breaking work, seven days a week.
We didn’t see dad a lot when we were little – we weren’t usually awake when he went out in the morning and we were in bed already when he came home at night. For this reason, it was a real treat when we got invited to go along on the milk route. Probably because we were prone to bicker with each other, only one of us could go with him at a time.
I remember standing with my mom one morning as we watched dad walk to the truck. I was not happy that I wasn’t getting to go with him and was probably showing some attitude. Suddenly my dad changed direction and was running back toward us and I knew I was not in for anything good. I don’t remember the spanking – just the moment of terror when I realized I had pushed the limit and there was no going back and no hiding. Oddly enough, both parents now say that we were very good kids and they can hardly remember giving spankings at all.
The milk truck was the biggest machine on the farm and when I sat on the wide bench seat with dad it seemed REALLY high, probably because I was really little. One of the best things about the trip was lunch. There were no McDonalds or fast food places. Lunch was made at home by mom, was often egg salad sandwiches (my favorite) wrapped in wax paper, and they always smelled delicious. Mom has always been a food genius when it comes to packing food for people. There would be a little jar of pickles, some fruit, and homemade cookies, always cookies. We usually ate lunch in the truck and it was gone by the time we reached the creamery.
After all the milk cans were unloaded, emptied, washed and reloaded into the truck there was another ritual treat. This particular dairy had a cooler near the entry that was always full of packages of butter, and small cartons of chocolate milk. If we had been good, we got the chocolate milk to drink on the way home and it was the best!
My grandfather also worked delivering milk at one time and my father remembers the same kind of treat would be given to him – it was a family tradition. It was country life. Not many kids get to live the country life, but I did and it was pretty good.