Smelling the dairy air
I’ll admit it, I’ve never milked almonds.
I’ve never milked soybeans, rice, oats, hemp, flax, coconuts or cashews either. Apparently, milk comes from everything but milkweed.
“Were you born in a barn?” I’m often asked when failing to close a door. I hadn’t been, but I took field trips to the dairy barn each day. It was a nice place to visit but I didn’t want to live there. The time spent in the barn put a dent in my day as we milked the cows twice a day every day. I was Sisyphus pushing a heavy rock up a hill. The cows needed to be milked and there was no app for that.
I wasn’t a world-class dairy farmer, but I’ve been disqualified at a charity cow milking contest at a county fair for being too accomplished.
I realize most of you haven’t milked a cow, but you have had a glass of milk, a milkshake or a bowl of your favorite breakfast cereal drenched in milk. So that makes us kin.
I remember this happening in the year of the great snail stampede. I had needed to move slowly out of its way. The following episode occurred on a cold winter’s day. The barn was warm — each cow was a space heater. Our barn had two rows of stanchions holding milk cows in place. Dad milked one row and I milked the other. He milked one more cow than I did because he didn’t fall asleep. I leaned against a Holstein and caught 40 winks as I did. Some mornings I caught 41 winks.
Having livestock requires doing chores, not a chore. You fed them at one end and cleaned up at the other end. The cows had indoor bathrooms. It was called a gutter. There were no bowling balls involved. A gutter ran perpendicular to the south end of a cow. One of the first things a dairy farmer taught his kids was to never stand behind a sneezing cow.
The cows liked me. I fed them alfalfa and told them jokes. They enjoyed the alfalfa more than the jokes. One morning, I placed the milker on my favorite cow, leaned against her and fell sound asleep. I woke up to discover the milker had fallen from the cow. It was a grumpy awakening. I jammed the milker back onto the cow’s udder. I must have surprised her. Maybe I pinched her. She aimed a swift kick to where I wasn’t. I chuckled until she stomped on my foot with her large hoof. I don’t know when the last time you tried to get a 1,500-pound bovine off your foot, but it’s not easy. I pushed and whimpered. She applied more weight. That angered me. Our cows were income providers and coworkers. We treated them with compassion. I didn’t hit cows. Dad forbade it, but what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I swung my fist in anger and hit the cow’s huge hip bone. The hip bone won. I grabbed my injured paw and yowled as I tried to free my foot. That caused the cow to raise her foot, freeing mine and allowing me to fall backwards into the gutter, which wasn’t empty. I jumped up from that predicament just in time to have the cow’s tail hit me like a blackjack in my temple area. It stung like the dickens. I did a pirouette before falling back face-first from whence I’d come.
Incidents like that cause lactose intolerance.
By the time I crawled from the gutter, I was covered in enough brown-green cow exhaust that all my mother’s spit wouldn’t be able to get off me. I had a slight headache, my hand was turning black and blue and my foot was throbbing. There are times when I think, “I’ve lived my life for this moment.” This wasn’t one of those. It’s not a smooth world.
My father said he was put on earth to milk cows. He rejoiced each day he could do that. That morning, as my father milked a few cows while I hadn’t finished one, he’d been pontificating about the goodness of dairying and the need for someone named Batt to be doing that work in this barn.
“Look around you, son,” Dad said. “One day, all of this will be yours.”
I tried to find a clean spot on my clothing to wipe my face with my good hand as I said with great earnestness, “Buy me out now, Dad.”
© Al Batt 2021
1. Who was the trainer of Triple Crown-winning racehorses Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935)?
2. It’s tradition for Notre Dame Fighting Irish football players to touch a sign posted in Notre Dame Stadium before taking the field. What does the sign read?
3. What former NFL defensive lineman played the role of Sloth in the 1985 adventure comedy film “The Goonies”?
4. What American female distance runner won the Boston Marathon in 1979 and ‘83, and won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics?
5. What cross-country skiing distance race, first held in 1973, is traditionally run every February in
6. What Boston Celtics player suffered a season-ending knee injury attempting a dunk after the whistle in the final minutes of a 97-84 loss to the Indiana Pacers in 2007?
7. What NHL defenseman, who played with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche from 1990-2009, raced in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series from 2009-15?
1. James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.
2. “Play like a champion today.”
3. John Matuszak.
4. Joan Benoit.
5. The American Birkebeiner.
6. Tony Allen.
7. Patrice Brisebois.
© 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.
Whenever I hop onto the Iowa-Wisconsin bridge headed to Madison and the Kohl Center to call a Hawkeye-Badger basketball game and roll up on the Cuba City exit I think of the Hall of Famer and Wisconsin’s all time winningest high school coach Jerry Petitgoue. Coach was recently named NATIONAL Coach of The Year by the National Federation of State High School Association. Why not? He’s zeroing in on his 1,000th career victory and that’s on top of a 25-0 record a year ago and 16-2 at this writing as he prepares his team for another helping of March Madness. Already a member of the Wisconsin Coaches and University of Dubuque Halls of Fame, Petitgoue has guided the Cubans to three state titles and thirty plus conference championships. He has many Hall of Famers as close friends including coaches Jon Davison of U-Dbq, Tom Davis at Iowa and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan.
Through a fifty plus year career of barking plays from the sidelines, Jerry Petitgoue has always been “about the kids.” He taught at Cuba for 38 years before retiring solely to X’s and O’s. I covered Jerry’s teams from the mid 1970’s to the late 90’s watching him yell “IOWA” or “WISCONSIN” to his team. Play’s derived from his close relationships with Davis and Lute Olson, John Powless to Steve Yoder, Dick Bennett to Ryan and many more who’ve worked his wildly popular summer camps.
Jerry Petitgoue is a living legend, right in our midst. He’ll surpass a thousand career wins in all likelihood next year. That won’t be his lasting legacy. Teaching hundreds of kids not only the game of basketball but lifes other skills and lessons will be Coach Petitgoue’s endowment. His gift to a wonderful Grant County community that hasn’t forgotten what God and Country are all about. After all Cuba City is the home of the “Parade of Presidents.” When Coach Petitgoue decides to hang up the sneakers and whistle, let me suggest his likeness be mounted on the next available light pole off main street.
“A Half Billion Chinese Don’t Even Know We Played the Game!”
With this memory, especially, Maury, Grandpa figures it will mean more to you when you grow older and read this for yourself some time in the future. This is because at that time you will better understand and appreciate what Grandpa learned from this baseball experience. (In the meantime, right about now, Maury, call ‘’time out” and ask your mom or dad what the word “perspective” means because that’s what this is all about).
It happened one night after we lost a very close game to the Cascade Reds. They had a great ball club and over the years had become one of our greatest rivals. We weren’t, however, used to losing many games. It had been one of those games when your opponent didn’t beat you as much as you beat yourself. (That’s what made us a good ball club, Maury. We seldom did that but it was one of those nights!) I had made an error at 3rd allowing an unearned run to score, and my team mates were guilty of a few other key miscues, costing us the ball game.
In the locker room right after the game I remember kicking a chair over, slamming the locker door, and throwing my glove! Grandpa lost his temper, Maury, but after all these years still remembers (and I don’t know why) what a team mate said to me about that time. Our 2nd baseman, Bob Schlueter, (remember, Maury, I called him “Boom-Boom” in Memory # 1) said: “A half billion Chinese don’t even know we played the game!” It’s funny how a flippant, sarcastically humorous, off the cuff statement (yet so true) like that, at the time, can jar you into reality. It can suddenly put things into proper perspective.Also, another lesson to be learned here is that until you learn how to handle a loss, you won’t really know how to act when you win!
Incidentally, Maury, we lost that game a half century ago and the population of China today has increased to a billion two hundred million! Hope you enjoyed this.