When we got to Spring Arbor, Dad’s dairy herd was reduced to one cow, a Jersey.

I held her tail.

Farmers tell me Holstein cows give more milk, but maybe this cow gave enough for our family of seven. Jersey milk has more butterfat. More like whole milk instead of 2%.

I liked to run my hands over our cow’s brown coat and lean into her warm hip while I buried my nose in her hair. And I helped milk this Jersey cow. Dad appointed me to hold her tail while he sat on a stool with the top of his head resting in her flank and his hands reaching under to pull her milk down into a pail.

Every morning and every evening, I stood faithfully by her lovely brown bottom, holding her tail in two hands like a bell ringer in a church steeple. Hold tight, Dad said, so she could not swish him in the face or dip her tail in the milk.

Since then I’ve looked inside many dairy barns at milking time, yet I’ve never seen anyone holding a cow’s tail. And that, of course, is because they don’t have a highly responsible person of three and a half years whose father assigned him to a position of importance.


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