So… that’s it.
15,128 days, 30,256 milkings.
6,000 cows, 14,000 calves
3 barns, 5 feed trucks, 18 tractors, 3 manure spreaders, 1 Grain-O-Vator.
41 winters, 42 springs, 5 kids, 1200 front yard baseball games, 4000 home runs (12 still under protest).
5,300 words I shouldn’t have said.
1 word I shouldn’t have said to my wife.
57 years still to pay for the one word I shouldn’t have said to my wife.
Now, the machine room is quiet the corrals are empty. It’s over. There is no need to check the barn at night to see if anyone came. There is nothing that needs to be done. No one is coming in the morning.
The calf pens are empty with the roofs closed in an effort to preserve them until someone else decides to use them. It won’t be me. The years of calf feeding are finished.
Sadness? Only that 41 years 5 months went by so quickly. Silly I know, but I thought it would take longer. I fear I have underestimated how quickly a lifetime passes by.
In the beginning I was hoping to make it at least a year in the dairy business. I just didn’t want to embarrass myself. I was willing to do anything.
Surprisingly, I lasted a year. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes but I made it a year. Then I thought that if I could make it 5 years then I would have at least a modicum of credibility.
Then, I made it 5 years. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes (about 5 times as many). We acquired calf feeders my parents called grandchildren. We had good years and not so good years. I thought if I could make it 10 years then I could lay claim to success in the dairy industry and maybe someone would give me a plaque or something before I disappeared.
Amazingly, I lasted 10 years. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes (this was getting old). We had some good years and some not so good years. The calf feeders grew and sometimes were tractor drivers, cow chasers, and sometimes labor protesters. I thought that if I could make it 20 years I would be at the height of the industry. If I survived that many years in the business I would know everything. Many young dairyman would want to seek dairy wisdom from me. Of course, I had to make it another 10 years.
And then there I was—20 years. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes……. again. No one was seeking dairy wisdom from me. We had some good years and some not so good years. A strange thing happened —the calf feeders started leaving home and getting what they called “normal” lives. It made me stop and think. I did not think about it for very long since I still had more workers living in my under my roof eating my Pop Tarts. So I thought if I could only last 30 years–now that was a goal! I could tell stories about the way things were–skipping the bonehead parts, slap other old guys on the back (carefully), and be quoted in prominent dairy magazines.
Then it happened, I made it 30 years. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes. (How many mistakes can one guy make in a lifetime? Is there a record?) So there were no quotes in prominent dairy magazines. We had some good years and some not so good years. I was down to one home-grown calf feeder who spoke of great plans when his dairy time was up. I discounted these plans as wishful thinking and too much lead in the drinking water. I was wrong. He escaped. Still, I thought if I could make it 40 years, I really didn’t think it would be that hard, it would be the last goal to achieve.
Suddenly it is 41 years 5 months — I missed the anniversary, I forgot. Made a lot of bonehead mistakes. We had some good years and some not so good years. We are nothing if not consistent.
After all this time I have begun to wonder what a bonehead mistake is. Is it really so bad and something to be feared? Maybe making mistakes are unavoidable.
And what really is the difference between a good year and a bad year? I hope it’s not all about money because there is a lot of things about dairy markets out of my control. A lot of good stuff happened over the years that had nothing to do with making a profit. What is the criteria for a good year?
Now, it’s the end of this adventure and I judge it this way. I did what I wanted to do. I met a lot of good people. I have enough good memories to sustain me for a very long time and I would do it all again.
Call it a success and bring on the next adventure.