At Allenstown Elementary School, a student asked what my favorite book was. That can be a stumper, but an answer occurred: It’s usually the one I just read. Same with favorite story or book that I’ve written: Usually the one I just finished.
The book I just read is Carol Harvey Clapp’s " ‘Til the Cows Come Home: The Almost True Story of a Bicentennial Farm in Epping, New Hampshire."
It’s about growing up on a dairy farm, her big colorful family, the community, the challenges of farming. It’s candid, funny, sad sometimes, too. I like the funny parts best, of course. During our NH winter, Carol and her husband milk cows in New Zealand, where it’s summer. Through the magic of e-mail I got ahold of her, said how much I liked her book, and may I quote it in my blog. Sure, she said.
So here’s my favorite story from " ‘Til the Cows Come Home."
Jim Sullos rarely left his farm and when he did, everyone commented that he smelled of cow manure. Refusing to modernize, he continued to milk by hand. It was said he wouldn’t spend a nickel to see an earthquake and certainly wouldn’t hire help. Dad asserted that Jim was clever though, because he saved his money instead of spending it on “frivolous” improvements, like we did.
One story was that Mr. Sullos was so thrifty that he had only one light bulb in the barn. “It’s true!” Matthew said.
Dad had taken our eight-year-old brother “to see how the other half lives” because word was out that Jim Sullos had “walking pneumonia.” Paul McPhee and Bruce Allen had asked Dad to go talk to the “old coot” and arrange a schedule for them to go help with milking and chores. The young men said Dad was the only person Jim ever listened to (probably because Dad was the only person patient enough to listen to Jim’s war stories).
“We didn’t think anyone was around,” Matthew said. “The barn was dark and there was no compressor or anything running,” observed my brother. Still, he and Dad knew the smelly bent-over farmer must be there somewhere because they had checked at the house first, where Mrs. Sullos said “James” was milking.
Besides, Dad knew what to expect. He just wanted Matthew to appreciate the “things-could-be-worse” aspect of dairy farming.
“But we went in there anyway, where it was really dark, and Dad tripped over a sill in the milk room. Then we ran into the cows tied up in a row coughing and rattling their chains. All we could see was there rear ends where the light came through the windows. Dad hollered, "Jimmy! You be in here?” and Mr. Sullos he hollered back: ‘Who is it?’ and around the corner there was a light.”
Matthew was impressed that Mr. Sullos carried a 75-watt light bulb with him to use whenever he needed to see. He screwed it into a socket, then unscrewed it to screw in again where he went next.
Now that’s Yankee frugality.