This week we asked our customers, fans, and friends to become guest bloggers and share their stories about growing up on the farm. We want to thank Aileen W. for her wonderful story and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
When I was 5 years old, my parents moved from working at a plant nursery in Western Oregon to a mid-sized dairy farm in south-eastern Washington State. We moved into a tiny Craftsman-style house that was surrounded on three sides by Holstein heifers. The heifers were grouped by age, so all the animals in each pen were similar in size. It was so much fun to go out into the yard and watch them watch me!
Since we lived on the dairy farm, I could ride my bike to see the animals any time I wanted to. As I got older, my favorite place to be was in the calf barn. I remember setting my alarm clock for 3:30 a.m. on school mornings so I could get up and go help feed the calves before I headed to school at 8 o’clock.
The farm’s manager, Mr. Kenny, lived just up the road from us and his youngest daughter was only three years older than me. Mr. Kenny was wonderful about teaching us farm kids (any interested children of the employees was included in this group) about Holsteins and about dairy animals in general.
As each youngster turned 10, Mr. Kenny allowed him or her to choose (with his guidance, of course) a young calf to take care of and train to be a show animal. Oh, I could hardly wait until I turned 10. I remember the summer I was 9, I finally got up my courage to go ask if I might be ready for a calf. He thought long and hard before deciding I should wait one more year. He suggested that I shadow one of the older kids and watch what she did with her calf and learn a little more about the animals. Then I would be ready, he said!
I spent every waking moment that I wasn’t in school following the older girl around. I’m pretty sure I was pesky with all my questions and wanting to help, but she was very patient and allowed me to be her assistant that summer.
The next year, when I was 10, I got to pick my very own calf (not to keep, but to feed and train). Mr. Kenny showed me three calves and asked me to choose which one I liked the best. That was easy! I chose #416. She was mostly black, but had a small white star in the middle of her forehead.
Then, mysteriously, Mr. Kenny instructed, “Okay, now come with me.” We walked straight to the farm office where he took the registration application for the calf and asked me what I wanted to name her. What a privilege! Getting to give the calf her permanent name. I knew immediately what her name would be: Ginger! Oh, I loved that calf! I fed her, trained her to lead by walking her all around the farm every single day, and faithfully practiced the show ring routine, me walking backwards slowly and carefully, eyes following the judge, not my calf. Mr. Kenny would scrutinize my efforts and he was never timid about calling to my attention corrections I needed to make.
When the time came for the show, I was up at 3 a.m., helping to load Ginger into the big livestock trailer (along with the other animals, all the tack and the supply of hay, grain, and beet pulp). Mr. Kenny and our group hopped into the dairy’s finest pickup, a robins-egg-blue 1968 International, for the long ride to the Black and White Show, 100 miles from home.
Ginger and I won a blue ribbon at that show. I was dressed in my whites. Ginger was freshly washed, tail fluffed, food and water in her tummy. Both of us were smiling from ear-to-ear! It was a landmark day for a 10-year-old farm girl and her calf! It was also the magic moment when I knew, without a doubt, that just like on Green Acres, “Farm livin’ is the life for me!”