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Strength, courage and intelligence

From the Farm

February 11, 2011
By Kerry Hoffman

It takes three things to work on our dairy farm. First, it takes so much strength Superman wouldn't even think of stepping into a phone booth, much less a milk house to change. It also takes a pain threshold that is so high, Rocky Balboa cowers in the corner and calls for Adrian. Lastly, it takes a rather large amount of intellect. Ken Jennings refuses to be a contestant on Jeopardy if he knows there is a "Dairy" topic.

So how in the world did I end up living and working on a farm?

I may be fairly intelligent; I am somewhat strong, but I tend to over-exaggerate pain.

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Just the other day, while working in the milking parlor it was proven that my muscles aren't what they used to be. I was trying to empty out what we call the "bucket." This is no ordinary bucket. Actually, it's rather large and holds approximately 100 pounds of milk. We use the bucket for any cow that is treated with penicillin, or other drug, which requires us to dump her milk.

When there are several cows needing to have their milk run into the bucket, it's a lot easier to just slide the bucket over to the next cow without emptying it. Well, on one particular day, probably on a Sunday, we were finished milking and the bucket was chock-full of 4 percent milk.

And I mean chock-full.

I tried to lift it straight up about three feet, so I could dump it down the drain on the cow platform floor and I dropped the entire contraption. The handle on the bucket slid off and, consequently, so did the lid. As large, full bucket hit the floor, milk splattered everywhere. Yes, it even splashed into my eyes. It's an ingenious way to get your calcium.

I will never try to lift a full bucket of milk again. It won't stop me from hefting a half-full bucket. I still have my dignity.

I can usually tolerate a bit of pain, but not like I was as a tough teenager. Years ago, I could tolerate a bit more throbbing. OK, let's not talk about the time I ripped my fingernail off my right-hand naughty finger in the door. I didn't feel any pain until I looked at my finger while standing in the middle of the back yard. That's when the neighbors thought somebody had been seriously injured.

But it was only me, standing out there holding my bloody finger and screaming like my entire finger had disappeared.

Now days, when I get a hang nail on my right-hand, ring-finger it hurts so much, I could cry. Every time I hit the "o" and the ">" key's on this keyboard, it hurts like a son-of-a-gun as the pain moves into the tip of my finger. I want to quit writing and go into stand-up comedy. (OK, so I don't use the greater than key that often, but you get my point.)

Several weeks ago, while trying to get the cows properly aligned in the milking parlor, I slipped off a steel rail and smashed my shin into another steel post. That hurt more than the time I ripped my finger nail off, but I was so tangled between the steel pipes, I couldn't run out into the yard and scream like my leg had come off.

Besides, I have tried that, and nobody ever comes to my rescue.

Intellect; the ability to understand, reason and think.

It can be a funny thing. It can either make you look very smart or as intelligent as a pebble.

In the milking parlor, I used my intellect Tuesday morning. It was so cold even the polar bears were attending the sale at Ribnick Fur and Leather in Minneapolis.

When I work in the milking parlor, I like to have a bucket of hot water available so I can rinse my rubber-gloved hands of dirt and poo before I dip the cows. This works really well for getting my hands clean, but doesn't really help when it comes to keeping my hands warm.

This particular day I couldn't put my hands in my pockets, because I was wearing my milking bibs and milking jacket to keep my milking clothing clean.

I didn't know how to get my hands warm, until I looked at Number 383.

Then it hit me. I could stuff my hands in between her udder and her leg - one hand on each side of the udder. Did you know that the normal body temperature of a cow is 101 degrees?

It was pure bliss and my hands warmed up extremely fast. The cow number had absolutely nothing to do with my use of intelligence.

So, maybe I am not Superman and a pin prick makes my eyes water. And Ken would never consider warming his hands on a cow udder, but I do what I have to do.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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