We have a stove hearth at our house. On one side sits a three-legged milking stool and on the other side is a 40-quart jug or milk can, with my grandfather's brass name label on it, assigned by the Bellows Falls, Vermont, Co-op Creamery, dated about 1920-something. These sit in their place as a reminder to me of my family's farm history. But, I got to thinking the other day that they also pretty much tell the story of dairy farming around this part of the Northeast and Vermont, in particular, for the past 100 or so years.
The stool story goes something like this. Before milking machines came into use, they were a must and were carried in one hand with a pail in the other during milking time. Even after machines came on the scene, they were still essential when sitting to "strip" out an occasional cow or hand-milk a fresh cow that just calved. Then came the milk pipeline around the barn or a "dumping" station in back of the string of cows. This prompted the use or invention of a strap-on or saddle type stool with one spring leg on it. This allowed the milker to carry a milking claw and various hoses in both hands to the next cow and still have the aid of a stool when squatting to attach the units. These strap-on stools saved many a set of knees over the years of their use. Then came the milking parlor with its standup role for the operator. So, the stools, both three-legged and strap-on, were hung on the walls, or who knows where, on many farms as time marched on.
The 40-quart milk cans stayed in use on many farms well into the 1950s with the Vermont Farm Bureau and others being at that time against the coming of the milk bulk tank as it would be the death knell of many small farms, as it was in some cases. But, eventually, a bulk tank in the farm milkroom was the norm. Now, you see milk cans with flowers in them or holding up a mail box or in an antique shop. So, the bulk tank ended the era of "40-quart jugs."
Now, as one looks down the road, we see mega dairies with automatic on and off milking machines and makes one wonder what will be the next thing to hang on the wall or be used for who knows what.
Dave Newton was Rutland County UVM Extension agent, retiring in 1984 after 31 years. He was a frequent contributor to a Rutland Herald farm column and radio farm program.