The Dairy Farm Adventures: A man called Bill

Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: A man called Bill

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

If a dairy operation placed an advertisement in the newspaper under the Help Wanted section, it might look like this:  


                                                Wanted for hire:  Full-time dairy farmer

                                    Must be willing to work fifteen hour days, seven days a week, 365 days a year

                                    No vacation time

                                    No time off for holidays

                                    No sick days

                                    No bereavement days

                                    Must know how to drive a tractor and know how to use tools

                                    Challenging, dirty work

                                    Benefits: You won't need to buy a gym membership.


There aren't too many people who would respond to this help-wanted ad.  Most people don't want to work this hard to make a living, but that's what it is like on our farm.   As we added to our herd, Matthew realized running a dairy farm was not a one man show.   We had the good fortune to meet Bill who became an integral part of our farm's productivity.

I believe Fate played a part in Bill working on our farm.   In late fall of 2007, I met Bill at the end of our driveway just as I was finishing an early morning run.  He was hiking toward me at a good clip.  I had seen him a few times on my morning jaunts, but we had never spoken to each other.   Just as I was about to head up our driveway, he piped up, “Hey, I was wondering if you might need some help on your farm.” 

My jaw dropped open and my eyes grew big as saucers, “Help,” I answered, “I guess we could use some help!” 

“Well, good,” he answered.  “My name is Bill.  I live two miles from here on the Jackins Settlement Road.  I can work on Saturdays and other days when the mill doesn't need me.”

 “Let me talk to my husband, and I'll call you within the next twenty-four hours,”  I said.

“Sounds good.  See you later.”

I was so excited, I sprinted up the driveway to tell Matthew the good news.  I felt like we'd just won a million dollars.  The same day, we asked a  trustworthy source about Bill. They told us, “You'd be lucky to get him.  You won't find a better worker anywhere.” 

Bill came to work on our farm a few days later.  At the time, Matthew was away almost every day delivering outdoor wood stoves to all corners of the state.  When Bill came, I got kid coverage so he and I could tackle my chore list.  We worked well together.  I appreciated his work ethic and his positive attitude.  When Bill was around I felt we could conquer any daunting task.   For two years, he worked on the farm almost every Saturday and days when he wasn't scheduled at the the mill.

By 2010, Matthew was milking thirty two cows twice a day using bucket milkers.  Twice a day he lugged two seventy-five pound buckets of milk, one in each hand, sixteen times and lifted them up to his chest to pour the milk into the bulk tank.  He never complained, but I knew his body was exhausted.  He consumed gallons of Mountain Dew to keep himself going.  I, too, was stretched to the max raising three young children, managing a household, and helping Matthew with farm chores every spare minute I had.  Something had to give.

In the late summer of 2010, I was weed whacking burdocks in the ditch beside the road.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bill's blue car slow down.  I shut off the weed-whacker.  He rolled down his window and said, “As of today, the mill has laid off twenty of us indefinitely.”

“Go talk to Matthew,” I said.

Ten minutes later, Bill pulled up beside me, grinning from ear to ear.  “I'll be here tomorrow morning to work on the farm.”

“That's awesome!” I exclaimed.  Finally we might be able to find a balance between work and playtime as a family. 

Later in the day, I spoke to Matthew about our good fortune to have Bill work more hours on our farm.  The spark in his eyes gave me forewarning the wheels in his brain were spinning madly.           

“Having Bill on board is a game changer,” he said. 

“What do you mean?” I asked. 

“Now that we have an extra hand, we can get more cows,” he answered.

My balloon burst.  Any hope of finding an easier rhythm to our farm life spiraled into oblivion.         

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