The Pickens Barn

The old barn on our farm had an interesting story. When I was in the fifth grade my teacher, Mr. Dorsey, told me that he had grown up on a homestead (a farm still held by the family of the first settlers) four miles south of our house. He said that long before my family had come to the farm, a tornado had hit the barn and stripped the shingles off the west side of the roof. Before I heard that story, I had always wondered why there were so few shingles on that side of the building. 

The old barn held a lot of equipment for horses, which had been left by the previous owners, the Ostrowski family (who were the original homesteaders). We were more modern farmers and we never used horses, but Daddy just left it there. There were three rooms and a loft in the barn.

Barn Loft 

The barn loft was a very scary place when I first went up there. A high vertical ladder was attached to the interior framing of the barn. When I got to the top there was a wide gap (terribly big to little people) that I had to get over in order to reach the loft.  Then when I got there, the flooring of the loft was not solid.  There were big gaps in it, because it was laid out using 1×4 wooden boards with an inch-wide gap between the boards. To a little guy those gaps were huge and scary! However, as I got older I didn’t even notice them. It was nice playing hide and seek and watching the people below looking for you. 

One of the things that attracted playmates to the loft was “parachuting” (jumping) out of the loft door on the south side. It was about an eight foot drop to the ground below. When Kenny and I were young, Robert and Don Haseker came over and parachuted out of the door several times. Kenny and I were too afraid to do it at the time. As the years passed, Kenny and I gradually got so we could jump out. Kenny did it first,  and then I finally got my nerve up to do it. 

When Kenny and I were in high school, we put a lot of hay in the loft. When we first planned it, I was thinking that about one truckload of hay would fill it. But we put in many truck loads of hay bales before that loft was filled. 

However, the main thing I remember about the barn was all the manure left by the cattle, who came and went as they pleased. In a bad storm, we would put our cattle in the corral, and they could take shelter in the barn if they needed it. At times the cattle manure was ankle deep, and we would have to wear rubber boots in the barn. 

Milking a Cow in the Barn

I learned to milk a cow next to the southernmost door (not shown) of the barn. To make sure my hands were strong enough, and to train me in milking, my dad took one of his old rubber gloves and put a needle hole at the end of one of the fingers. Then he filled it with water, and demonstrated how the thumb and first finger should clamp around the glove finger, not letting any liquid flow back into the body of the glove. Then he closed the remaining fingers in his hand, forcing water out through the hole in the finger of the glove. It took me a little time, but with the right muscle coordination and some muscle development, I could get a good flow of water out.

Then daddy and I went and roped our cow and tied her to a support, just inside the door. Daddy showed me how to put a cow hobble on the hind legs of the cow. After that, he took a little one-legged hand-made milking stool and sat down next to the cow’s udders, and he showed me exactly how to milk the cow. 

Using the procedure we had developed on the rubber gloves, he helped me grab the teats of the cow and send milk into a bucket.

When I got to be good at it, the sound of the milk hitting the can was very distinctive. I had to always be prepared for the cow to move or kick,  and I would have to quickly grab the bucket to prevent it from tipping over. I also had to avoid getting hurt myself! 

When I was done, Daddy and I would have to put the milk in a safe place. Then we would take the hobble off the legs of the cow, and take the rope off her neck. Our cows were generally pretty docile, but at least once during every milking something would go wrong, and then that cow would let us know about it. It was certainly not pleasant to deal with a thousand-pound beast who was not happy! 

After milking, we would have to take the heavy bucket inside to pasteurize it, but first we had to feed the multitude of cats that would appear as soon as we started milking. The cats were not necessarily pets, but Daddy liked to encourage them to hang around and keep down the population of mice and other rodents on the farm. They generally migrated from farm to farm, but some of the mother cats always hung around our place.

We would always pour out a cup or so of the fresh milk into a bowl that was specially laid out for the cats. (Some of the cats would hang around while we were milking and would stand on their hind legs while we squirted milk into their mouths.) We continued to milk the cows until we started buying milk at a store in town. 

Loading chute

The next structure, as we move right in the photo, is the loading chute used for loading and unloading cattle from trucks.  A truck would back up to the top of the chute, to load or unload cattle.  

Our smaller trucks could back into the chute fairly easily, but the larger semi trucks had more problems. One of the main difficulties was getting the back of the truck perfectly lined up with the ramp, so that there was no gap where the truck bed met the ramp. If there was a gap, the cow was sure to get a foot stuck in the hole. 

Behind the chute were several pens for separating cattle, but they are not shown here.

%d bloggers like this: