Mrs. Traver, my fourth-grade teacher, glowered down at me as I squirmed in my chair.
    “This homework is a mess,” she said as she threw a paper emblazoned with a large red “F” onto my desk.
    Well, of course it was a mess. What do you expect when you forget your assignment until the morning it is due and try to complete it on the bus? But, Mrs. Traver was not interested in excuses, only punishment.     
    You would think that being a dairy farmer might mean a person would no longer have to endure such nonsense. But it seems the world is full of people like Mrs.Traver, some of whom became dairy inspectors.     
    I used to actually enjoy our dairy inspector’s visits. This was because we were inspected by a nice guy named Arden. Whenever Arden stopped by our farm, I would mosey down to the milk room and chew the fat with him about such things as crops and old cars. As Arden left, he might mention a few items that needed attention, and I would promise to get right on them. Arden was a swell guy.     
    But then came some massive government budget cuts. A slew of state employees were pink slipped, and others had their duties rejiggered. The net result was that the same person who inspects dairies might also check on such things as restaurants, nursing homes and nuclear power plants.     
    One day when I was not home, a new inspector visited our dairy. He left behind a report card that was covered with angry scribbles.     
    I felt like a fourth grader all over again as I perused the report. One of the first notations I read said, “Cats in the milk room.”     
    Well, of course there were cats. Cats and dairies go together like soup and sandwich, horse and carriage, Celine Dion and overwrought love songs. Besides, cats were the core component of my Self-directed Biological Rodent Control System. Without the cats, there would have probably been an angry notation saying, “Chorus line of mice doing the Macarena on top of milk tank.”     
    And then there was Gimme Five Kitty. One summer, our perpetually pregnant mother cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. One of the kitties was cream-colored and had astonishingly blue eyes. The kitten seemed extra clever, so in idle moments I trained her to give me five with her little forepaw. Hence her name.     
    Our youngest son, who was 14 at the time, took up the cause and trained Gimme Five Kitty to ride on his shoulder like a parrot. He would strut around the milking parlor with the cat perched atop his shoulder and say such things as, “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of catnip.” How could we evict such a cute little puddy tat?   
    Another notation read, “Dog in milk room.”
    Well, of course there was a dog in the milk room. Frosty, our Blue Heeler, knew it was her job to help with the milking. Frosty was a highly skilled cattle dog but was not very good at telling time. She would tag along into the milk room no matter what the hour might be.     
    Frosty also was not much of a guard dog. She would have held the door for a burglar if he patted her head and would have driven his getaway car in exchange for a tummy rub.     
    Large block letters near the bottom of the inspection sheet proclaimed, “Manure in free stall area.”
    Well, of course there was manure in the free stall area. We were experiencing an extended cold snap that would have made the movie “Frozen” look like a Florida vacation. Cow poop froze the instant it hit the ground. The accumulating glacier of manure was hard as a diamond. My skid loader’s bucket could not even scratch it.     
    That was the final straw. What was I supposed to do, rent a jackhammer to bust up the dung? I envisioned a use for a jackhammer that had nothing to do with frozen cow poo.     
    But then I imagined things from the inspector’s point of view. Moments after walking into our milk room, a cat leaped onto his shoulder, began to purr in his ear and tried to give five to his nose. A Blue Heeler throws herself down at his feet and presents her tummy for a rub. He peeks into the free stall area and naturally thinks, “Whoa. This place is absolutely filthy compared to that surgical suite I just inspected.”     
    I guess it should not have been surprising to receive such a dismal report card. But, I would have definitely filed a complaint had the inspector scribbled, “Cattle in dairy facility.”
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.