You remember that song, right?

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
During the old days, many folks made drinking troughs for their own livestock by whittling out a good-sized aspen log. Some of these troughs, such as the one pictured here, were still in use when I moved here, circa 1970. One of the better-known troughs was at Turkey Springs, the source of the name for Turkey Springs Road.

Last week, I waxed sentimental and talked about milking the cow back about 1942 at a time when World War II was in full swing Atlantic and Pacific and I was attending a little country school near Grants Pass, Ore. At that same time, we also had a herd of goats which supplied us with milk, meat and tallow for our shoes. I’m sure there are folks around here who have similar memories. I’m tempted to continue with the “Sentimental Journey.” For sure, anybody who remembers those days remembers that song. Pagosa Springs had a milking tradition that I learned about several years ago from local old-timers. Folks living here around the start of the 20th century had a town herd. A lot of the better-off folks during those days had a barn near the house in town where they could keep a milk cow overnight. Of course, the cow was milked during the evening between coming home from work and eating dinner. Usually, the cow was given a scoop of oats or barley to keep her calm during the milking process. If you think about it while scratching your head a couple of times, you can probably understand why a cow might get resentful or at least a little bit feisty during the time she was being relieved of her latest leche accumulation. Following the milking, the cow’s head was released from the stanchion and she was given an armful of hay. She resumed her usual contented manner and chewed hay or munched her cud all through the night, waiting for the milking adventure to be repeated early the next morning. Meanwhile, the milkor took his bucket containing about a gallon of warm milk into the kitchen, where it was poured through a linen cloth to filter out the assortment of dust-like particles acquired during the milking process. The milk was allowed to sit in a clean container until a goodly portion of the cream accumulated on top of the milkee’s donation. The cream was skimmed from the top and put in a separate container in which it could be saved for coffee, or maybe a shaky trip through the churn where it was converted to butter. Families like ours who couldn’t afford a churn put the cream in a canning jar, tightened the lid, and one or more of the kids spent their evening shaking and rolling the jar full of cream until it solidified into butter. Homework was different during those times. The butter was ladled out of the jar and compressed in a way that removed the last of the moisture, leaving a nice cube of butter and a jar of curds and whey which was used to make buttermilk. I thought the buttermilk was yucky with its sour taste, but other family members liked it. Early the next morning, whichever family member was the designated milkor again milked the cow before going off to school or work. A short time later, a person hired for the task went to the home of each cow owner and persuaded that cow to join the growing herd of cows being driven from town to some grass-lined road outside of town where they grazed all day until the keeper of the town herd returned them to their owner for the evening milking session. If you look carefully at some of the older homes in town, you’ll see a building formerly used to house the family’s milk cow. There might also be a carriage house or a chicken house. Those were the days, my friend; I thought they’d never end. Of course you remember that song, right?

This story was posted on January 28, 2018.