It had to be the biggest bovine Lewis Nixon had ever seen in his life.
He stared over the broad auburn back of the Jersey cow with mortal fear. Dick couldn’t help but laugh at his wide-eyed expression. Lew looked so out of place with his pressed slacks and tie—a city boy lost on a Pennsylvanian farm, removed from his native land.
Dick patted the cow confidently. “It’s okay, Lew. She’s very docile.”
“Bullshit. She’s a killer.”
“Here,” said Dick, taking the pail from Lewis’ hand and placing it under the cow’s udder. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”
Lewis squatted down to observe.
“You hold the teat up here like this, then just squeeze down finger by finger, gently, like this.” A neat stream of milk squirted into the pail. “Here,” said Dick, moving aside. “You try it.”
Lewis glanced nervously at the cow’s large, heavy udder. “I dunno. I feel like I should buy her dinner or something first.”
Dick, hiding his grin, crossed his arms and gave his partner a stern look.
“Alright, alright,” Lewis muttered, rolling up his sleeves. “Brother. To think I gave up yachts and country clubs and swanky cocktail parties for this.”
Lewis sat in a chair with the butter churn clamped between his thighs, working the cream like a rowing slave. His face was sunburnt, his hair was a mess, his undershirt was soaked with sweat, and he hadn’t had a drop of whiskey since last night. The simple life didn’t seem so simple anymore.
“Dick,” he moaned, “I’m getting blisters and I can’t feel my arms. Help.” He sank against the churn, exhausted.
Dick chuckled and slid into the space behind Lewis. “It may take some time,” he said gently, picking up the churn, “but you’ll get used to it.”
Lewis was surprised how quickly he grew accustomed to waking up at four in the morning. He didn’t even need an alarm clock anymore. He’d crawl out of bed and throw on yesterday’s work pants, then pad out to the barn barefoot. “Mornin’, Clementine,” he’d yawn, patting the sweet-tempered Jersey. He’d pull up a stool and lean against her warm body, milking her without even looking.
By the time he’d get back to the house, Dick would be up and fixing breakfast, and they’d talk about the day over oatmeal and coffee and bacon.
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