As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We have reached the end of a very good chapter in the story of our farm.
This chapter started 15-some years ago when we met Ron while working as herdsmen at the Salzls’ farm. Ron did relief milking for them. After we bought our farm, we asked Ron if he would consider doing some relief milking for us. He agreed and began milking for us occasionally.
I don’t think it was hard for Ron to say yes to milking. Ron grew up on a dairy farm and dairy farmed himself for several years before taking a job in town.
Ron is one of those men who truly loves cows. He would tell us stories about the cow families in his herd. And he remembered the cow families in our herd – sometimes even better than us.
Sometime around when Monika was born, we asked Ron to consider milking for us one night a week. We needed some time off on a regular basis, and Ron really seemed to enjoy milking. Again, Ron agreed.
And, so, began the Ron years – at least that’s how I will remember them.
Every Wednesday night, Ron came to milk. Some of those nights we did things like family movie night or simply sat down to a non-rushed supper. Some of those nights we chopped corn or caught up on other chores. And if we needed a different night off for a Christmas program or a father-daughter ball or a softball game, Ron was always happy to switch unless he was refereeing a high school volleyball game.
Ron also continued to milk for us when we went away for the weekend or took a business trip. Every dairy farmer knows it can be hard to leave the farm, but we never worried when we left the cows with Ron.
Ron was so good with our cows and knew them so well. If Luna came in looking a little off, Ron noticed. If Athena was in heat, Ron caught it. And, because he also worked as a relief A.I. technician, he took care of that, too, when we were away. If the cows or heifers got out, Ron put them back in.
But even better than being a great milker, Ron became a great friend. Just as Ron was one of the first to know when our kids were born, because he was milking for us, we were some of the first to know when he had a new grandchild arrive.
We got to know Ron’s family through his stories, almost as well as he knows ours. He occasionally brought his family to see the cows. His wife, Jane, sent Easter baskets for the kids, and their house was a must-stop for trick-or-treating. And it wasn’t uncommon for Ron to show up on Wednesday night with a fresh batch of the best monster cookies for us.
This chapter came to an end last month for a reason many dairy farmers (and retired dairy farmers) will relate to: Ron’s knees have been bothering him, and his doctor recommended retiring from milking.
When I told the kids Ron was retiring, there were sad, but understanding, faces and questions about what we were going to do without him. I told them we’d look for a new relief milker. Daphne immediately responded, “We’re never going to find another Ron.” Daphne might be right. Ron leaves us with some very big shoes to fill, but I’m hoping there’s someone else out there who enjoys milking as much as Ron did.
Ron, if you’re reading this, thank you for loving us and loving our cows as if they were your own. We are so grateful for all your help for all these years. Enjoy your retirement.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.