I grew up on a farm in Africa. Although it was not solely a dairy farm there was a dairy. Long before before milking machines the cows were milked by hand. Every cow had a name and if I think about it hard enough I can remember a few of them. I can remember the cool, dark dairy in the early morning. The fragrance of the warm milk mingles with more pungent smell of the silage, and the waft of fresh manure. In my mind I can hear the cows munching, the sound of milk frothing against the sides of metal buckets, and the dairy hands talking and whistling softly. Most of the commands where whistles as the cows were moved along and the next lot moved in. My mother would sit up at a high desk recording the amount of milk from each cow.
The Friesland dairy herd were, at that time, my mother’s pride and joy. Butterfly was the colossal Friesland stud bull. He was kept penned for a lot of the time and as a result was quite cantankerous. One day he escaped from his pen and it just so happened that my younger sister and I were in the vicinity. He came lumbering after the two of us and the bunch of African children we were playing with. We all ran for our lives, screaming (of course). I grabbed my sister by the hand and dragged her willy-nilly to the silo. Normally we were forbidden to climb into or onto the silo but under the circumstances I disregarded that command while ‘escaping’ from Butterfly. I can’t remember the outcome of this adventure but seeing it was not me who released Butterfly from his pen, it was probably trouble-free.
I’ve often thought of Butterfly and wondered why such a delicate name was bestowed on such a massive animal. What happened to him I have no idea. The dairy was eventually closed. The big metal cans used to transport the milk to the Dairy Marketing Board – who knows what happened to them?
I can recall things about those early mornings in the dairy which, in reality, I was probably too young to remember. But, there is a softness in these memories; the memories evoke the peacefulness of the predawn milking.
Nowadays I can’t even drink milk!