COL June Dairy Month was a busy one for this family
"June is Dairy Month," but when you're in the business of milking cows, every month could be called that. Years after you've milked your last cow, you continue to remember and be grateful for all the hard labor you know it takes to put a gallon of milk in the coolers at the grocery store. I think if you have ever been in any phase of agriculture, you have a deeper appreciation of the food on your table.
For our family, cows were definitely the center of our world, and June the beginning of a summer sure to be filled with fun-filled dairy activities.
School would no sooner be out than our children's thoughts would turn to their favorite 4-H project, that being dairy. It was time to start working in earnest with any animals they planned to show at the fairs later on in summer. Many years these same cattle would be given a trial run before the fairs at "dairy day" shows held in each county during June. This meant there was no time to waste; and so began the catching of calves, training them to lead with halters, and the scrubbing, all done in hopes of winning purple ribbons.
But aside from working with animals, as much or as little effort could be put forth in carrying out the theme of June being the chosen month to celebrate the dairy industry, and I think our family did not leave one stone unturned when it came to promoting the product we were so proud of.
One year we saved any and every carton that contained dairy products, made a huge cow with wire netting, and filled it with these cartons. This was then transported to our local dairy store, to our county's twilight meeting, and to the fairs and used as the theme of a contest: Guess the amount of money these containers represented.
I'm not sure how many garbage bags full of dairy product containers we saved, stored, and hauled around! Next came the "real seal" promotion. The Junior Holstein Association voted to construct a float to be pulled in area summer parades.
Guess who offered their parents' machine shed to make it in! I thought we'd never get that ply-board-size real seal cut out and painted just right! But we wanted to do our part in the promotion of nature's most nearly perfect food!
Probably our most memorable promotion was the Sunday afternoon that a local historical landmark held their annual June dairy celebration. Besides making and serving homemade ice cream, they asked our 4-H club if some NICE family could bring a calf to put on display.
You guessed it! Nice or not, daughter Beverly and I decided we could handle the job and not wake dad from his much-deserved nap. Since the calf selected to take was still small, we would skip the trailer, load it in the back of the pickup where daughter would hold it and mother drive the short two-mile distance to the site.
Well, we should have rethought that idea. A week-old calf sure has a lot of spunk. And besides, they're hard to catch once they jump out and start running! To make the day complete, the truck ran out of gas and we still had to call home and wake dad from his nap to help us out!
As I think back to the days when our family's life was centered around the dairy industry and related activities, I could feel sad. Was it all in vain? After all, what good did it do. The price of milk paid to dairy farmers today certainly isn't anything to get excited over.
But, as with anything, there is a bright side. We were a family doing something together. We did our part in a profession we loved and were proud of. And as with any family activity, it cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents; yet we were all the richer because of it.