Testing Times

35 9 14

(prompt: 'challenge' 26/7/2019)

My nose crinkles involuntarily even today... Who could ever forget having to clean down the herring-bone dairy BEFORE we could milk? AND remove the offending feed. All those compact little piles of pellets and grain I'd carefully lined up in the long open trough, exactly where their heads would be. Uhrr... incoming lesson! You feed the 'girls' after they have walked in and shuffled and arranged themselves... and 'pooped' again. NOT before!

FOUR hours from whoa to go to milk 26 cows! We were quite proud to find we cut that back to 2-1/2 hours at the p.m. milking. On that first day, we would not have believed the 'norm' we would achieve much later, 65 cows in two hours! And even later again, 80 in two hours. Practice makes perfect, they say. In this case they were right.

We were up for the challenge... following on from the woeful efforts of a temporary dairyman - a sheep farmer. "So what's wrong with a sheep farmer milking cows?" you ask. Well-ll...

For starters, this reluctant milker rounded up the cows twice a day with his trusty working dogs, and his equally 'old faithful' utility. Hard to tell which moved the cows faster - the incessant yapping or the combined roar of the vehicle's motor and beeping of its horn as it belched great clouds of stinking smoke - a hugely successful method (for him) to get the herd into the dairy in the shortest time known to Man. As spectators, there to 'learn the ropes', we were unimpressed by the quantity of milk spread over the paddock by the swinging udders of the sprinters. Maybe we knew zilch about milking cows, but it didn't take an Einstein to figure this was all wrong.

"True city slickers," Kanute says, shaking his head in disbelief. "And yet we learned how to handle our big 'girls' successfully for the next ten years!"

It's true. No job for the faint-hearted with all those huge heads and their poppy eyes staring fearfully at you. Some wanted to sniff and taste us with great snake-like tongues as rough as sand paper. Others rolled their eyes, lay back their ears and tossed their heads in seeming disgust. Much head-swinging and foot-stamping took place as they tried in vain to withhold their milk.

On this first dairying day we'd graciously refused all offers of help with the confident air of two old hands at this milking 'gig'. How ironic in retrospect. Kanute and I are the most honest people you'll meet... and yet, on this subject, we blatantly lied and deceived everyone around us so none should witness our quivering interiors and glowing 'L' plates.

"That trusty sheep farmer actually did us a massive favour," I say, full of confidence now, all these decades later. And we both remember only too clearly our thought back then that nothing we could do would upset the girls more than that sheepish dairyman.

And then I set their feed up in the trough...

Author's Note: There is more to this day's story. Want to hear it next time? Don't know if I can afford the Chief Prompt-maker's bribe.  An arm and a leg are steep, especially for a POW (poor old writer... hark now, hear the violins!)

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