Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pee Bucket!

(my family's farm and iconic red barn)

Just the other day, someone at work asked me about life growing up on a Dairy Farm. "Wasn't it idealic?" they asked. "You must have really loved your childhood."

True enough. I grew up with acres of land to explore, a river running through it, and a home where our nearest neighbors were much more than a stones throw away. Yes, it was terrific. But it wasn't all sitting on fence rails, fishing and picking four-leaf clovers. Not at all!

Case in point: My first job. I had participated in certain chores around the farm since I was old enough to walk. That's how you roll when you're a farm boy. But my first official job was far from the glamourous paper routes or lemonade stands that many city kids enjoyed.

No, for my first job I was placed in charge of the Pee Bucket. Warning . . . the following description is graphic.

Back in the early 70's our dairy had a flat milking parlor. This meant that, instead of the cows standing on waist-high grates to be milked, they were brought into a room with a flat concrete slab. No grates, just a shallow channel behind them - with no drain.

So, when these milk cows decided it was time to relieve themselves (which, by the way, happens constantly) someone needed to run up behind them and catch the said waste. Yes, you guessed it. At the tender age of approximately 7 years old, I was dipatched to keep an eagle-eye focused on batch after batch of milk cows lined up 8 in a row. And, whenever anyone in the parlor spotted a tail lifting or a hunching back (sure signs that an liquid onslaught was coming), the loud cry went out "PEE BUCKET!"

It was then my duty to run over and grab a rusty old 3 gallon metal pail and hold it up as close as I could behind the urinating animal to successfully catch as much of the steaming hot pee as I could. All the while I had to move the bucket back and forth until the bitter end as the flow fluctuated in strength and the urine spattered off the bottom of the metal pail, pelting my averted face like raindrops on a late autum morning.

I then had to gingerly lug the full pail of steaming yellow fluid to an open door, using care not to make any sudden move which would send it sloshing over the sides, increasing the odds of my slipping, falling and dumping the whole bucket all over me. I did this for at least 5 years after school and on weekends.

Idealic? Now you know why farmers really have kids. And I'm not even going to mention what we had to do with the shovel.

I think I'll discourage the lemonade stand for Lukas and push him towards a paper route.

9 comments:

morethananelectrician said...

That is exactly why people had larger families. I am sure you can still "smell" the contents of the bucket when you close your eyes and think about it!

SciFi Dad said...

See? Mining your childhood always brings up blogging gold!

James said...

@MTAE - I only had one brother and a sister who didn't help out on the farm, so there weren't enough of us to spread the dirty jobs around.

@Scifi - Gold? I'm not so sure if the reaction will warrent that kind of designation. lol.

FilmFather said...

I'm sorry, but this is the first thing that popped into my head:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V_0k7DZt-o

Guess it was better that you were beckoned for the bucket itself than having your own nickname attached to the task...

James said...

@FilmFather - Yeah, something like that. Yes, I am glad it didn't becoem the Jimmy bucket.

New-Dad-Blog.com said...

wow, my first job was picking up dog poop in the back yard. I think you got me beat!!

James said...

@New-Dad - Yeah, it was memorable...

Still there were plenty of other great aspects of growing up on the farm.

nonnasnonsense said...

my hubby grew up in a farming family as an only child. they did the dairy thing, the egg thing, the tobacco thing. farm work always came first. over homework, play time (i don't think he had much of that). not to mention his dad is accident prone and has almost killed him many, many times. he was driving a tractor when he was so young that he had to reach UP for the steering wheel. it just amazes this city bred, country hearted girl.

oh! and your barn is beautiful!!

James said...

@Nonna - Thanks. My Great Grandfather built it in 1922. The farm has been in our family about 140 years. And yes, there are all sorts of accidents waiting to happen. Keeps you on your toes.