These stories from Don Ashford remind us all that life is a winding road, and as the scenery changes, we change with it. It’s a good reminder that resilience lives in us, helping us move on and keep going.
Karen, our daughter, was born in Sept. of 1959 and we moved to the Dixon place when she was six weeks old. There was not much to offer any hope of this place being anything special, but I thought that we were on the road to success and all that was needed was a little time and a lot of hard work. Daddy and I had brought home a bunch of wooden packing crates from the job and had built some cabinets in the kitchen. This did nothing to solve the other shortcomings of this old house, when the wind blew it would stand the curtains straight out and the rugs would come up off the floor. One week it got real cold so we took the mattress off of our bed and put it on the floor in the front room where the fireplace was and slept four deep so the kids wouldn’t freeze. In the morning when we got up the water in the glass that Betty always kept by her at night would be frozen. Now I know that if someone from up North reads this they will probably laugh out loud, but remember we’re in the Deep South. You really never know just how things will turn out, but in spite of ourselves, for the most part we survive.
One of the few things that Betty would not do was milk the cow. We were both town raised, but I had learned to milk after my folks moved to the country. Betty and I raised our kids on the milk from an old Guernsey cow we called Skinny and a Sears and Roebuck pasteurizer. Some people and animals carry names that call attention to a certain characteristic, so it was very easy for all to see and understand why this cow was called Skinny.
There are two family stories that involve Skinny that took a strange, ironic, twist. And I think it proves once again that you never know how things are going to turn out. To repeat, one of the few things that Betty would not do was to milk the cow. This was in 1959. Almost twenty years later in 1977, Donnie had grown up and was out of school and decided to go into the dairy business. In October of 1977, Betty and I milked our first cows in a milking parlor and until 1990 she was the relief milk-hand and I was a full time partner. So much for a town girl who said,” I’m not going to milk a cow.” Like the ad says, you’ve come a long way baby!
The other story takes a stranger twist. One early spring morning I had milked Old Skinny and as usual I saved a quarter for the calf. When I turned her out of the little wooden stanchion I milked her in, I didn’t notice where Donnie was. But he and the calf were both next to a bank in the lot where it was warm and out of the wind. The calf was laying down and Donnie was squatted down by it rubbing its head. Well, Skinny came out in the lot and when she saw what was going on she made a run to her calf. The calf hollered and jumped up and Donnie hollered when the calf jumped up. Skinny got there about then and rolled Donnie over and went to pushing him around – not really hurting him – but it was a hell of a racket there for a while, the calf bawling, the cow carrying on, Donnie hollering like he was being killed. I ran out there with the milk bucket in my hand and hit Skinny up side her head with it, the calf ran off with its mama after it and then I picked up Donnie and hushed him up. Everything was all right, nobody got hurt, but I had lost most of the milk.
After this little drama Donnie was scared to death of a cow – y’all must remember he was just going on three years old. He finished high school in 1975. By that time he had gotten over his fear of cattle and from 1975 until 1989 or there about he was a rodeo clown and bullfighter.
Ain’t life strange?