From the Neck - "Sparky", "Dog" & other critters
We always had a dog, and a cat with us - at home and at the Neck. Growing up, we also always had a Cow. One of the neighbors would keep the cow over the winter, it would "Freshen" - have a calf - just before we were due at the Farmhouse, and then we'd enjoy all that rich fresh milk all summer. Early on, Mom did the milking, then brother Art took over - at a pretty tender age too. Depending on the breed of cow, we'd have 10 to 16 quarts of milk a day,more than enuff for the five of us.
Mom would put milk in large shallow pans, overnite, on a stone slab in the cellar, and in the morning there was a thick layer of heavy cream atop the pan. We'd churn the cream into butter, mom made "potcheese" (?) from the skim milk - if we'd been to town and brought home ICE we made home made Ice Cream.
Over the years we had Jersey, Guernsey, and one Holstein cow. Bought the Holstein from the Bailey's who were tired of Bossy getting into their breadbox - they then had a small "convenience" store up by their farm. "Bossy" was very gentle, and we made her a pet, to our eventual sorrow. One fine day Bossy followed Art, her right favorite people - he milked her - right into the kitchen. As with most old farmhouses, the kitchen was the largest room in the house, Kitchen, Dining Room, Big Iron Cookstove to heat the house, and Family Room to play cards in the evening - by Kerosine lamplight. But one BIG COW tromping about was unusual - Art thought it was very funny - weird sense of humor - Mom decided right then that we'd replace Bossy with something - maybe not quite so gentle - or people oriented. Had a different cow the next year. And besides, either Jersey or Guernsey cows gave much richer milk than Holsteins.
Oh yeah, Sparky. The Johnson's kept our cows over the winter. One of the boys had a sawmill in part of their huge barn, and did logging in the winters. One year when we came up, George told Mom he had a horse, in bad shape from overwork on the logging. He was about to shoot the horse, but it was so gentle he'd rather let us have it over the summer, to recover, grow fat and happy, and just be a nice pet for the kids. So now we done got a genuine HORSE - Sparkplug - SPARKY.
And Sparky was one super pet. -- One day when Sparky was busy grazing, head down -- Art decided to climb over his head and sit on Sparky's neck. Old Sparky promptly lifted his head, Art slid down onto his back, and Sparky went back to that fine grass. Naturally, little brother, - monkey see monkey do - had to emulate big brother, and there are now two "riders" .. Next big sister , and finally little sister, all four up on horseback - the hard part was turning about to face front - and old Sparky still grazing. That became a routine game and I think Sparky thought it was fun too. Then, one day the shed door to our makeshift "Barn" for Cow and Horse was left open. Sparky saw the open door - to his feed bin - and ran for the barn. All four of us had to abandon ship or get scraped off when Sparky hit the barn. Keep that damn barn door closed!! We enjoyed Sparky for three years, same deal, fatten him up over the summer -- til he did not make it thru the winter.
Dad's mom - "Granny" - with her oxen
Dad's sisters - Aunt Jeannette and Aunt Catherine - Haddam Neck 1930
One year the Johnson's had a mongrel hound dog -- Walter said he wasn't good for anything but Woodchucks -- all he lived for was catching Chucks. This "Dog", thats all Walt called him, adopted my big sister Jeannette, followed her all over, and slept upstairs in her room. Walt lost his mutt for the summer.
Till one morning -- "Dog" looked out Jeans bedroom window and saw A CHUCK -- right over yonder on the stonewall. WHAM - out the second floor window -screen and all- and after Mr Woodchuck, who hustled back into his burrow under the wall.. "Dog" worried that section of stonewall for a long time -- no way were we about to tear down that wall right 'longside the house.
WIN some - Lose some.
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