the other bit. Sorry about this, I’ve been fighting NZ’s possibly biggest e-mail provider and in the end, despite all their lovely promises, have switched to something that works.
Do you hear this, God?
‘SPARK’ CAN GO SUCK EGGS
bad eggs, rotten eggs, eggs with little gooey crawly things in them …
here’s that tale I promised you.
Every word is true, I hope you like it: and I’ve discovered another, which I’ll post soon too.
WE TAKE OUR DAILY DOSE OF MILK FOR GRANTED, don’t we?
Milk is white juice in plastic bottles from the supermarket; pasteurised, homogenised, discombobulised, calcium enriched, lo-fatted, nuked, devitaminised, revitaminised; ideally suited to turning black coffee white or reducing crispy wheaten things to a soggy grey goo.
At the back of our minds the thought may lurk that there are animals in the loop somewhere—large gentle ruminant beasts with eyelashes to die for, that repose in languid pastures and blissfully convert mouthfuls of lush vegetation to golden cream.
But such thoughts are distant. Reality is the here and now: fill the trolley and move on.
Few of us are aware of the other, hidden, side of milk … the HUMAN face of milking.
Needing an extra buck, I found myself alongside a Southland dairy farmer standing to the very immediate south of five hundred north-facing cows on a rotary. New title: Trainee Relief Milker …
* * *
“Milking’s a doddle—you just take the cups off as the cows go by.”
Wow. Even I can do that. I nod and the farmer (Bill) grins. I’m clad in my own ancient rubber boots and his rubber apron. Even at this late stage I don’t twig, a moment’s thought should have me wondering why a milker’s apron needs be so … all-embracing. That moment passes unheeded.
The carousel starts to move.
More cows amble on and take their places, one to each bale; patient, gentle, aromatic.
“This is the cups unit—pull this little knob to break the vacuum, then ease the cups off the cow. Hang ‘em here; then you squirt the teats with this conditioning wand as she’s backing out. You’ll soon get the hang of it.”
Seems simple enough.
My first cow arrives, I reach out.
“Not that one, she’s still going. Chain her up.” How nice. My very first cow and she’s kinky.
“Quickly, like this.”
A few deft movements and the cow is chained into her bin. I sense a degree of bovine resentment. Her tail twitches.
“Sharp now, next one’s here.”
I reach out a tentative hand—
Reflexes withdraw my hand a millisecond before it is reduced to atoms. The whole world reverberates. Nice tone.
“Watch out for that, now, sometimes they like to kick.”
I gaze at the apparently sleeping cow in awe. Her tail flicks idly, a desiccated dung goes ping somewhere in the far, far distance.
“Here, watch me.”
He strolls casually down the line. Cups leap off and hang themselves up as he passes. A mystic wave with the wand, tails flick aside in unison and all teats drip conditioner. I’m to be paid for doing this? It almost seems criminal.
Inspired, I try again.
My cow starts dancing, hopping about and shaking with a rapturous empassionment. The cups are rattling in there somewhere, I lunge and achieve a grip by pure luck. I tug, and pull; then heave. It’s a lot like trying to separate a short-sighted amorous octopus from discarded bagpipes. Finally, after a colossal yank I stand panting, a full day’s work done already.
“Next time break the vacuum first.” Oh, yes, that blessed knob, of course—
“Lively now! Squirt her! Hang those cups up, on to the next.”
Clank. Squirt. Clank. Squirt.
Clank, clatter, desperate slither—
At last I get the cups onto their hook. With dry teats and a well-conditioned tail she’s already backing out, I swear she’s grinning.
“Sharp now, next one, you’re getting behind!”
Getting behind? I look up, from here it’s all behinds, an endless line of behinds curving in from infinity. Outstretched tails, too, some of them; cute. Oh yes, next cow.
I lunge and grab, keeping clear of possible kicks. Hah! You don’t catch me a second ti— —momentarily my world blazes (Oh look, stars!).
Some inbuilt monitor laconically tells my brain that I’ve just been bopped, and by an expert. On the edge of vision I see a medieval mace swinging back for the coup de grace; mission-minded I snatch my cups and leap away just as the mace clangs the rail with a shock that would’ve opened the Titanic like a can of worms.
“Tails. You get used to them.”
Tails. Kicks. Horns. Hoofs. What next? Do cows bite?
“Never mind that! Get those cups—you’ll soon dry.”
Redolent of straw a warm waterfall passes over me and away. The tail lowers. I get my own back with an indignant burst of conditioner—
“Easy! That stuff’s expensive!”
Squelch? I look down.
Maybe I should’ve heeded good advice and tucked my trousers into my boots … a point to me, though, only one leg is green, I still have a spare.
“Chain this one.”
Oops, only half a chain but all a cow. Now what—
“Other side! Pull it over and mate the hooks. Quickly, you’re running out of time.”
Of course, done like that it might just about almost reach—can I persuade her forward a bit?
Obviously married, she backs up.
Bill waves me out of the way and leans over. The cow moves forward, hooks join and the next three lots of cups jump from their udders. Teats drip exactly the right amount of conditioner, all without missing a beat.
“Looks like you’ve got the hang of it. I’ll be close by, sing out if you need help.”
He’s gone, too late to sing. Anyway, I can do this—people do it every day, and I’m a people.
Now that he’s no longer here the carousel blatantly accelerates to sub-orbital (or is it just my paranoia kicking in?).
Spludge? Oh no. Did someone just say spludge?
What sort of thing goes spludge? No, don’t answer that, I really don’t want to know …
I take my baptism like a man. Mainly because I have no option, there’s nowhere to run, no place to hide, and no farmer within range to whom I can give immediate notice.
The next seven hundred years fly by until the final cow departs with a full-body belch that rattles the rafters. She backs elegantly out through a thick carpet of goo. Nice green.
“Now we hose out—here’s your hose; this button on the console starts the pump.”
Absolutely pooped, and tired as well, I accept my hose and take aim at the only spot of concrete visible in an emerald world. (At last, something I know. I can DO hose, I went through the navy’s fire-school twice and did the Offshore Survival course in Aberdeen. Hose? Hah!)
I twist the nozzle.
Newton’s laws kick in. The recoil lifts me off my feet and slams me against the wall, poo explodes in all directions then I’m flat on my back blasting the roof. The one thing I do not do is let go of the hose, in fact I do my level best to strangle the blasted thing; I know it will beat me to a soggy jelly given half a chance. To the death, then, no quarter asked and none given.
Almost drowned (what goes up comes down) (Newton? Einstein? Count Duckula?) I grope blindly for the nozzle and shut off the flow; instant limpness as the hose goes hard. Harder.
“If ever you’re through hosing we scrub down the steel, and all the brickwork—”
Oh, goody, hygiene. I like that in my milk.
“—then we hose out again. After that scrub your apron and hang it up, then you may go home.”
Oh, wow. Home. Sweet distant dream.
I arrive home a conqueror, Man the Mighty Hunter, breadwinner; we eat again—
“Ye UTTER gods!”
Not quite the rapturous welcome I’m expecting.
The mop in the face I definitely am not expecting.
She’s lovely when she’s roused, a vixen defending her earth—
“Get that lot off! Shower! NOW!”
Nude, aromatic and freezing, I’m marched at mop-point through to the bathroom and left to run my own shower, wondering if Ug the Neanderthal got the same treatment when he fronted up back at the cave after a hard day on the mammoths.
Somehow I doubt it. Ug had it easy.
I console myself with a thought that at least I know now where we can get our milk from in future:
FROM LITTLE PLASTIC BOTTLES IN SUPERMARKETS, THAT’S WHERE!
(Ooops. Dumb dog, discovered I’ve shoved it in the wrong blog. Apologies, I’ll re post it later in my’Dreaming Cavalier’. Blame blasted ‘Spark’ and their useless aggravations …)