News and Tribune


April 15, 2012

CUMMINS: Rest days aren’t like they used to be

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — After writing several articles on looking into the future, I gave it up. I realize my future is shorter than it was and dependent upon the delicate hands of Medicare personnel. I just wish that all government bureaucracies working for us would participate in humanization seminars. However, we must remember that as long as old folks can vote, we are a vital statistic. Although elders prefer inactivity, we must remain politically active carrying banners and marching in the fight against the high price of gasoline. What will happen to you when you can’t afford the gas to go get your blood drawn? Do you expect a government doctor to get on his horse and come to you? Why can’t a modern liquid specialist convert cars to run on milk, cutting fuel prices in half?

That reminds me of the good old days back when we milked cows so we could live. Life was simple back then, and that’s one reason older folks tend to look backwards rather than ahead, which appears fuzzy and dusty. Face the facts, when an elder looks ahead, what does he see, something warm and fuzzy to comfort him? No, he sees dust, to which he will soon return. Our bones become crumbly, our hearts miss beats and our minds tend to become foggy, so we look back to see clearly, yearning for our grandchildren to come, sit at our feet and say, “Grandpa, tell us again about the old days when you talked to the cows as you milked them.”

A good friend sent a Facebook clip about a 25,000-acre farm in northern Indiana that milks 32,000 cows, providing enough milk to supply Chicago and Indianapolis. About 50 calves are born there everyday, and tour groups can go watch the miracle of birth. I remember when my granddad and I tied a rope to the feet of a calf and pulled it out helping nature to preserve two other lives.

We milked 20 cows the hard way, every early morning and late evening. You sat there on a stool rhythmically pulling and pumping away. You grew up learning that all life around you depended on you. The cats would come, and you’d squirt a stream of warm milk into their open mouths. It made you feel good caring for and helping sustain all life around you. To survive back then was to work in harmony with nature and with the gifts from the Creator, who expected you to continue creating, preserving and enhancing those gifts for those who followed. It was a big responsibility and hard work, but early on, you learned the greatest satisfaction was leaving a little more than what was given to you. Nature was your calendar and clock. A 40-hour workweek more than doubled if need be. The fringe-benefit package included the sun and stars, the woods, fields and gardens and the nobility associated with creating and sustaining the continuing life cycle. A built-in rest time renewed your strength to carry on.

Back in those days, as instructed by the good book, we set aside one day per week for rest. After church, neighbors and kinfolks gathered in for a big dinner. Then after the kids played in the barn and the other folks rested and told stories under a shade tree, we’d gather back together again. Mom had mixed up two gallons of rich cream fresh from our cows, some strawberries from the vines or ripe peaches from the tree and with a 50-pound block of ice from town, we’d hand crank a two-gallon freezer of ice cream.

My goodness, was it ever good, eating big bowls and cooling off out of the hot sun. I liked strawberry the best when they were ripe and then peach when they came on. If we didn’t have ripe berries or fruit yet, Mom would have someone bring bananas. I still can’t decide which one was best.

I’ve got great-grandkids coming on now. They’re scattered around, and one’s growing up in Germany. They are our friends now, but I remember when Germany was our bitter enemy. It shows how times change, mostly for the better, when we set our minds to it. The times were very good back when we made ice cream on the rest days. When my great-grandkids come, I hope we’re still taking the time to rest up. We’ll have ice cream then, too, but probably at Dairy Queen.

Contact Terry Cummins at

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