Oh to Be Mennonite and Single

March 27, 2017

Lord, What about Him?

April 11, 2017

Til the Cows Come Home

April 5, 2017
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A week ago today, Dad and Mom sold the cows.

I’ve been wishing for this to happen for years now. Ever since they started the cleaning jobs, around three years ago, they’ve worked too hard. They’ve had to milk the cows morning and evening, of course, besides feeding and cleaning barn and putting up hay and dealing with frozen water pipes and whatever else comes with dairying in Wisconsin. It’s hard work for anyone, and far harder at sixty years of age than thirty. And since we children have grown up and have jobs and responsibilities of our own, it’s just been the two of them to work the farm.

In addition to the regular chores, every night after milking for three years, they’ve gone uptown to do janitorial work at two local businesses. We children have helped with those cleaning jobs some. But not every night. And I’ve felt sorry for Dad and Mom, driving uptown night after night, coming home late. For three years, hardly ever an evening at home.

And now–finally–they’ve sold the cows. I didn’t expect, after the trailer carrying the last eight of our milk cows had gone out the lane, to feel . . . SAD.

But I did.

There have been milk cows in our barn as long as I’ve lived. Always, we’ve had milk in our refrigerator and hamburger in our freezer and the not-so-pleasant odor of manure drifting up from the barn. Always, Dad goes out in boots and coveralls and comes in covered in silage and the odor of cow. Always, he stands at the door to hand in a brimming container of milk and goes on down the basement to change. Always, there has been hay making and calf feeding and the big solid swaying bodies of cows. Morning and evening, milking has been a rhythm of life and the only thing, ever, that never changed.

And now the milk cows are gone.

Already we are falling into new rhythms. Dad kept back some of the young stock to raise as steers. Right now he’s working on changing the barn over from a place for milk cows to a place for young steers. There will always be chores to do as long as he has the steers, but they will be less labor intensive than the milk cows were. Mom doesn’t have to help anymore and has more time for homemaking.

Every evening Dad and Mom still do the cleaning jobs, but now they can go earlier and come back to have part of an evening at home.

When the apple trees they planted last summer bear fruit, there will be apples to pick and sort and sell.

There will always be plenty of work. But I hope—I pray—that Dad and Mom won’t have to works such long hours, that they can have time in between to relax, to enjoy their family, to do something fun for a change.

For me, this time of change for my parents feels like a time of release. I’ve felt responsible, as long as they were overwhelmed with both milking and cleaning, to help as much as I could. I don’t feel that anymore. It is time to move up, move out, find a life of my own. To step away, just a bit, from the protecting arms of my parents and find a purpose independent of them.

Not because I don’t love my life as it is. I do. Only because it is time. The rhythm of life is always surging forward to meet change, growth, maturity . . . and then death. And though this makes me feel sad and sentimental–like I want to hold on to now, always–the pulse to move forward is good. It is the thing that makes new life possible.

I’ve finished a book, finally. It will come out in July. The next book I want to write glimmers on the horizon. Perhaps writing is the one part of my life that will never change, at least until I am too demented or blind or arthritic to do it anymore. Writing is a rhythm within me, pulsing from one day to the next like morning and evening milking.

And always, besides the writing, I will carry within me my family, this community, this life. That will never change, no matter where I go or what I do.

“What are you waiting for?” we used to ask each other sometimes, as children. “Til the cows come home?” The words run through my mind now, when the cows are gone, and change and maturity and eventually death lie low on the horizon.

None of us are waiting around, because waiting isn’t an option in life. But love is an option. And family. And doing something useful with a life while one still has a life to give.

These people around me, within me—they are the rhythm of my heart and life. They are a part of me always, and I will love them ’til the cows come home.


The feature photo was taken by Egalo Palo and originally posted at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/threesome-1380736


  1. Definitely bitter sweet. I’m glad for your folks sake! But wow! Seems unfathomable! It’s hard for me to imagine.

  2. It is a sad day. My girls so wanted to sell ours but when the time came for them to leave, it was a sad day indeed. For me milking cows is/was my first love, but life moves on and I knew it wasn’t going to be forever. What an exciting time in life for your folks, a new phase in life.

    1. Yes. It is an exciting time. I am glad Dad still has the steers, because that’s not such a big change, and he still has chores to do. And the apple trees too. Still outdoors, still out in the earth and animals and sky. When farming has been a part of your entire life, it is hard to leave that.

  3. My parents are facing changes this winter too. They are selling the dairy farm to my brother. Last month they left the farm house to move into the ranch house on the corner of the farm. They are still close by, and, for now, Dad is still milking cows, but they aren’t living in my childhood home. I’m excited for them. Mom is enjoying her smaller house. My parents are slowing down too and I’m glad they will have more time for grandchildren. But I agree with you that it is still a little sad. I can’t scroll back the years and return to my young and energetic parents any easier than I can return to my teen years. And I want to embrace the changes with joy.
    Thanks for your insights.

  4. What an ode to the rhythms of life and family and writing. Though you feel ambivalent about the big change, your parents no doubt have kept healthy all these years with such an active lifestyle. And with the smell of manure to clean out their sinuses!

    I still don’t get your blog notifications, but when I see your Gravatar, I check in over here. Please don’t fret over this. I’ve had my hands full with my own blog problems and understand how hard it is to solve bugs with notification.

    Here’s hoping for a wowza book launch this summer, Lucinda!

    1. Thank you for the good wishes, Marian. I appreciate that! I’m sorry for the difficulty over the notifications. I am sure more than just you have been having difficulty. I am not fretting, but I am working on the problem. 🙂 It’s just taking a while.

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