Herald and Journal, April 30, 2001

An Easter milk bath


Have you ever been given words of advice, ignored them, and regretted it later? Aunt Evelyn used to say, "Don't try to do two things at once." She was canning sauerkraut and, in her hurry to take some jars to the basement, she slipped on the basement steps, fell, and broke her leg. I should have remembered her advice Easter morning at the Fink farm.

Some of our kids and grandkids were coming over for Easter dinner and I was making early morning preparations. I had just gotten the potatoes and eggs boiling for potato salad. While they boiled I had a few minutes to run down to the milk house and get milk. Anticipating the crowd coming for dinner, I headed out the door with two pitchers.

As I entered the milk house, I noticed that the handle on the bulk tank spigot was in an unusual position. Normally, it's parallel with the bulk tank and a couple of inches away from it. This time the handle was pushed all the way back against the bulk tank.

This should have been a clue. Talk about being clueless.

I crouched in front of the bulk tank and screwed off the plastic cap that covers the end of the spout. I turned the handle, holding the pitcher tilted toward the bulk tank to catch the milk.

No milk came out. At that moment, Jesy came in from the barn. I looked up and said, jokingly, "What is this, April fools?"

Just then, the milk started to flow, squirting off to the side more than down into the pitcher. I filled the pitcher and tried to push the handle back to the closed position. It turned freely in my hand, and didn't stop the flow of milk in the least. The metal stopper had come loose from the handle and fallen out onto the floor. Suddenly, milk began to gush out of the bulk tank.

I grabbed the second pitcher and hollered at Jesy, "Get your dad in here!"

There I was, yelling for Tom and rapidly being covered with milk. I tried to hold my hand over the end of the spigot, but I couldn't keep it there. I couldn't screw the cover back on because the milk was gushing too fast.

Finally Tom came running in, and stopped the milk by holding his hand on the end of the spigot. "Grab some latex gloves," he yelled. He wadded the gloves into the end of the outlet, and held them there while he considered a solution.

"I'm going to have to take this apart, fix it and clamp it back on. You're going to have to hold some paper towels over the opening while I do that. Get some paper towels and get ready."

The only way I could manage to stop the gusher was to hold the paper towels across the opening, hold my wrist with my other hand, and then brace my knee against my hand. It was a very awkward position to hold.

Of course, I tried to think happy thoughts as I crouched there. In the back of my mind I could see my potatoes cooking away to mush, and the eggs boiling down to hard little blobs on the stove. I imagined myself trying to find something else to serve with the ham. I even began to wonder if the glass cook top would shatter if the kettles boiled out of water.

"The pin that holds this together fell out," Tom exclaimed. "I have to find a nail small enough to fit in the hole." The repair would hold until the milkman came later in the morning to pick up what was left in the bulk tank.

Just when I thought I couldn't hold the milk in for another second, Tom brought the fixed spigot over to where I crouched. "Okay, now," he said. "You take your hands away and I'll put this on and snap the collar in place." It took two tries, but the flow of milk finally stopped.

We were both covered with milk. My hair and face were dripping. My sweat pants and shoes were drenched. I have felt my shoes squishing with water before, but this was the first time they had ever squished with milk when I walked.

Jesy came back from feeding calves and was put to work hosing the milk off everything. I left quickly before she decided that I was also fair game.

How did the potatoes and eggs fare? Well, luckily, I had turned the burners down low enough before I left the house. No harm was done to the potatoes. The eggs may have been a little overcooked, but they were acceptable for potato salad.

There was plenty of milk to go around, too. I passed on that. After all, I'd already had more than my share for the day.

Got milk? Oh, yeah!

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