COWS CAME FIRST
Let's face it. Money is what pays the mortgage and when cows produce the cream that turns into cold hard cash their well-being must be considered. Otherwise there would be no breakfast.
I learned to milk because I admired my mother and she was the champion milker. She could squeeze and pull more milk from old Nellie in five minutes than Dad could all morning. He had to take over the milking when mom was not well, which was rarely. But I knew I could help and I learned quickly. That pleased him, too.
That was all good and well for the summer but cows had to be milked every day - twice - summer, fall, winter, spring. So I did my milking duty before walking to the school bus. No problem there. Cleaning up and getting into school clothes was something else.
We had no indoor plumbing. We didn't even have a well on the place. Water was carried up a short rise from what I always called our lake. It was a very large and fairly deep pond which constituted a portion of our property that was not taxed. It's a good thing it was deep and never dried up. Taxes were tough enough to raise anyway and having more acreage to till wouldn't help.
But back to the bus, kiddo. I washed my hands and face in comfy water warmed in the reservoir on the kitchen stove. Good enough. Well not really. Animal smell lingers. You know that. Why else would you wash your dog? Because it stinks. Besides that, think of the body that only bathed once a week. Phew! I know you'd rather not go there.
Anyway you get the picture - a country kid among washed up doctor's daughters in high school. Don't think both concepts went unnoticed by the school counselors who decided just which kids would go on to make something of themselves. Counselors set up the curriculum that each of us would take. Throw my family's annual income against a doctor's and it doesn't take a Mensa to figure out who got the college curriculum.
That didn't phase me at the time. The doctor's daughter was a sweet, cute girl and because the first four letters of her last name were the same as mine, we ended up with side-by-side lockers. I loved her fragrance - some Evening in Paris delight found only in the highest quality drugstores. But I remember being in awe of her clothes. In the early forties high school fashion was a twin sweater set and matching skirt, all in the most delicious pastel colors. Well this next-locker girl had every color there was, although now that I think of it, there was no purple. Imagine a pastel purple! Not then.
When I think about all the things other kids had that I didn't, I wonder that I didn't become bitter and envious. In the age when shrinks search for the answer to why there is so much hate in the world, childhood gets the blame. Kids were poor. Parents who demanded rules were abusive. Life was hard.
Kids no doubt become dissatisfied as the adults they live with.. Anyway I did get to college and I had to make up the foreign language requirement at Dad's expense - not when public education should have carried that. But that didn't bother me at the time. What I was amazed with was my fellow students hatred of their lives on the farm, vowing to never to go there again.
I did go on to travel to six continents. My locker mate stayed within blocks of her childhood home and is in awe of my experiences. So much for prophets. Sometimes I wonder if some old high school provincial counselors still exist when I hear of the criteria used in judging very young school children by their behavior or home life. It is not so simple to prevent bad judgment as it is to replace hands with automatic milking machines.