May 09, 2007

Dairy Girls

In celebration of Mother's Day, here is a story about my mother, Rae Madsen Kern and her sisters. My grandfather Elmer Madsen was a dairy farmer in the Salt Lake Valley, where he kept a large herd of registered Guernsey dairy cattle. When Elmer passed away, our family received his roll top desk, which was replete with black and white photographs of his prize-winning cattle. His daughters would hold the cattle by a lead rope usually with only their arm and hand appearing in the picture. They always thought that they were the object of the photography, though only the cattle appeared. The names of the cows mentioned here are their actual names.

Elmer's dairy was named the El Merit Dairy and was located at 3900 S. 400 E. in Salt Lake City. A couple of years ago, a neighboring city here in the valley, West Valley City created a "dairy museum" to capture the memory of the various family owned dairys that had been operated in the valley. A highlight of a recent visit by my mother was a trip out to the museum to view the artifacts of her childhood now preserved and on display in the museum. It was a tender moment. So thanks to West Valley City. And thanks to Mom. We love you and wish you the best on Mother's Day 2007. The photo is of my parents at the Virginia City, Montana Victorian Ball, August 2005.

Dairy Girls
by Paul Kern

From a Guernsey herd of purebred blood,
A hundred cows and a world-class stud,
Elmer built his dairy; his pride and joy,
But with only two he was short a boy.

Long on girls though; in all counting five,
Good times and bad - they could all survive,
They had more than most; but as an aside,
These dairy girls preferred to work inside.

With the hired hands they were very coy,
They never showed a neighborhood boy,
That they all worked hard upon the land,
Never wanting to show their hand.

But early morning and every eve,
You could see ‘em all roll up their sleeve
To milk the cows; each one they’d squeeze,
Aiming the stream down past their knees.

The cows by name each one they’d call,
Rex and Pulrose and Judith and Nell.
Let’s wash your tails and comb your hair,
It’s nearly time for the county fair.

Out came the buckets the soap and the brushes
To scrub up these cows just in from the rushes.
Off fell layers of muck and mud not a few,
The gold of the Guernsey came glowing through.

And once they’re all cleaned up and all deburred,
We’ll snap their pictures; standing out of the herd.
Not just the cows, but all you girls,
So go wash up now and put your hair in curls.

Then come on back as fast as you can,
Hold this rope in your right hand.
Now smile, look pretty and come in closer
Hold up her head and straighten her shoulder.

The dairy girls posed with so much poise,
Hair curled, fresh dress; not a speck of noise,
They gazed smiling into the camera lens,
Standing with the cows over near the fence.

Right there, hold it. Are you ready?
Stretch your arm out and hold it steady.
There I got it. It’s surely a beaut’
Of Rex and Nell in their Sunday suit.

Pulrose and Judith and the others would be,
Preserved in the pictures for posterity.
When the photos came back they all came aroun’,
The dairy girls hurried back from town.

To admire themselves and see how they looked,
In the pictures now being placed in a book.
How can this be? How did this happen?
All there is here are cows halfway nappin’!

Cows being held by a rope and a hand,
Of one of the dairy girls who didn’t understand,
That the pictures of cows all trimmed off square,
Were just the right thing for the county fair.

So in an album the cow pictures would end,
To be often admired by family and friend,
For the hired men and the neighborhood boys.
Elmer’s prize herd was immortalized.

So what happened to the dairy girls,
Who posed for the camera bedecked in curls,
Holding the rope that held the halter,
Of Nell the heifer or whatever they called her?

They were always right in front of a cow,
Off to the side so they wouldn’t all show.
As the dairy daughters for the camera would stand,
These hard working girls showed only their hand.

There were no more secrets from that neighborhood boy,
With the hired hands they could no longer be coy.
That these dairy girls worked on the land,
Was in every picture where they showed their hand.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you to my cousin Paul for memorializing our Grandpa Elmer!