Fremont County, Iowa

Coslett's Barn, Part 1 & Part II
by Lois Coslett Whitehead

View from the Attic - A Weekly Series
Part 1

I was eleven years old, when we moved from the farm to town. The day of the "sale" or public auction, to sell machinery and livestock, I was a half mile away at our country school. At recess, I could see all of the cars and pickups, along the side of the road by our house. The thing I missed most about the farm, was the barn. It was one of my favorite places in the world.

The barn was nothing fancy, just a simple structure, built for the necessities of farming and raising livestock. It was some distance from the house, which was good for odor control, but not good for carrying buckets of milk up the hill to the house. On the way to the barn, stood an old iron hitching post, from long ago, still firmly embedded into the ground. I loved to hang upside down by my knees and pretend this was my trapeze high up in a circus tent.

You also passed a rather large vegetable garden, on the way to the barn. I really never helped much in that garden, but I picked the hollyhocks, and made little dolls with them. Sometimes I ate warm tomatoes off of the vine. Outside of the barn was a lot with wooden gates. I loved to hang on those gates and watch the cows. One summer I got a splinter under my arm from doing that.

There are many sounds that come from a country barn. First when you enter the barn door you have to reach inside, and unhook the curved hook, which fits into a kind of circle thing. Hear it clink? The cows had to be milked morning and night, but first you had to get them to the barn. Dad called them. It kind of sounded like "SU-Boss, SU-Boss." The cows marched to the barn in single file; went to their stanchions, the same one every time, then slats or boards were moved so they couldn't get out. In front of each one was a feeding trough filled with cracked grain. Sometimes, Dad would break ears of corn for them. I loved to watch them eat, and chew, with all of those teeth and that big tongue.

Cows can kick when they are being milked and it can hurt or tip over the milk bucket. To solve this problem, we had "kickers" that hung on the wall and had to be put on the back legs of the cow. Then she was sprayed for flies. Remember the pump, pump sound as the spray came out the end of the spray thing? It didn't smell so good!. Oh, where was OSHA to protect us. The udder and tits were cleaned before milking, then a sparkling clean stainless steel milk bucket was placed in position under the udder. Dad sat on a little three legged "milk stool" which was pretty unique in its own way. The sounds would begin. It's hard to describe the sound of milk hitting the sides of that bucket--kind of a swish swish sound and then the sound changes as there gets to be more milk in the bucket. All seven cows were milked by hand in this manner.

Coslett's Barn, Part 2
by Lois Coslett Whitehead

Our "modern barn" had electricity so there was radio music in the background, mostly KMA from Shenandoah, Iowa, with news and farm reports. In the late 1950's, I was on a family vacation riding in the back seat of the car listening and singing along to my very favorite at the time, the Everly Brothers, singing, "Bye, Bye, Love". The song was played over and over again, from Iowa to California. My Dad told me the young singers were from Shenandoah. Well, at thirteen I was so much smarter than my parents I said, "They are not from Shenandoah!" Dad said, "Yes, they are, I used to listen to them while I milked cows in the barn." He was right once again.

When calves were in the barn, they were always hungry and ready to eat. Nothing is as loud and noisy as a calf on the calf bucket, a galvanized bucket with a nipple on the side. The sound was the loudest and fastest slurp, slurp, slurp, you have ever heard. The calf also made a kind of clicking sound. They were so aggressive that it was hard to hold the bucket, and keep them from knocking it out of my hands. There was a hook on the bucket for you to hang it on the fence. It was always fun to train a calf to the bucket. You put milk on your fingers first and let them suck your fingers, a tickling, funny feeling, to get the hang of it.

The barn cats hung around waiting for their turn. They had a pan where milk was splashed for them to lap up. Inside of the barn is a row of little bins. They house oats, corn, and other grains, which are for feeding the animals. I loved to play in these and jump in the grain but the oats made me "itchy."

My most embarrassing story is about bailing hay, just don't tell anyone. Neighbors came to help and Mom fixed a wonderful country dinner. Our kitchen had a wash stand with an enamel bucket of water with a dipper in it, and an enamel wash basin. Above it on the wall was a mirror. I was only eleven but I had begun to notice some boys were very nice looking. Two teenage brothers from our neighborhood were helping with the haying. As one was washing up, I guess I was kind of admiring him from afar, he looked into the mirror and "winked" at me. I was so embarrassed; I can even feel it today.

Another sound in the barn were pigeons. They set on the rafters and cooed all of the time and flew around making swishing sounds. Barns are wonderful, but today they are disappearing across the country and for the most part have outlived their usefulness. I hope this helped you step back in time, a little, and remember.

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Page updated on February 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau