Saturday, 15 October 2011

Should Have Put the Blade out of Gear blog 21

He Should have put the Blade out of Gear

These are tales father used to tell us round the breakfast table on a Sunday mornings when all the farm weekend chores had been completed, (until evening milking)

Father had been brought up by his uncle in the 1920`s, a single man who put him to work long hours before and after school, the school was a village in south Staffordshire a mile or so across fields and footpaths, Upon arriving at school the children's boots were inspected, inevitably on wet mornings they would muddy and no excuse would be aloud for not polishing your boots before setting out to school.

Hand Milking

Milking was the first job every morning, (even on school mornings) the cows rounded up from the "night pasture" (usually the nearest couple of fields by the buildings), every cow knew her own stall, tied up and ready for milking. Fetch with the buckets and stools, turn your cap round and head under the easiest cow to milk. With two gallon in the bottom of the bucket, there would be as much again of froth protruding out of the cone shaped pail.

Some were restless and fidgety, some with tails down right filthy, some were just hard to milk, some had pendulous udders almost to the ground and the teats pointing east west (these were usually the heaviest yielder's but the most awkward to milk) When the cows were all in milk it meant there was up to eight or ten cows each, a good hour and half's work.

Milk was carried in pails to the dairy by the farm house, tipped through a cotton wool filter to take out all that might fall into it (straw?) and into a high D shape receiving tub, There was a brass tap on the front so that you could graduate the flow of milk down the ribbed cooling block, locally called a fridge, this was made of copper and plated with tin (or some white metal) the copper a good conductor of heat and the tin easy to clean.

Water from the well is pumped and flowed up the inside of the fridge, the milk flowed down the outside, the aired water that left the fridge went into a cow trough for them to drink when they were turned out from the sheds. From the fridge the milk dropped into the large seventeen gallon churns, all hell would be let loose if anyone let a churn run over, which it inevitably did from time to time, it was one of those things you only ever did once.

Next job was to harness the half legged Cob, put him in the shafts of the float, back up to the dairy, load the churns and tie them to keep them from slipping or moving. The driver, usually the youngest lad ( my father), about twelve or thirteen would be trusted to encourage the horse to move swiftly toward the station, but not too swiftly out of the yard gate as it was a forty five degree turn round the end of the roadside ditch, this taken at speed would "Spill the Milk".

On down the narrow single track road you would be fairly safe, as long as your Cob did not try to load himself up in the back of the neighboughs float pulled by a slow and old "Hack" (and usually driven by one as well). As you got near the station it was like the "Gold Rush" fortunately everyone going the same direction.
Fittest and fastest horses at the front of the queue, (if they did the milking on time,) and wait for the train, when it did come the floats were backed up in turn to the rail wagon, the full ones duly labelled loaded, and the tomorrows empties taken home. Then into the house, get changed and off to school with his boots polished and instant cane if he was late.

Fingers (or not)
In his school holidays father in his early teens would be sent off to mow with a pair of Shires. First the blade had to be sharpened like a razor in the barn, by his uncle, this made it easier for the horses to pull, and always take a spare one with you as well, half way through the morning the blade would go "dull" and block , so it needed to be changed. It was during a blockage that the fingers of the mower had to be cleared, and to an inexperienced lad like my dad he lifted the blade from the lever by the seat, then walked round to the back of the blade, and cleared it with his hand, (not with a stick) he should have put the blade out of gear.

At an unfortunate moment one horse did little more than stamp his foot, the blade did a quick couple of zithers and father lost two of his fingers, his little finger was taken back to the first joint and the flap of skin stitched over to cover the hole, similarly the next finger was cut off above the second joint the same again, taken off at the next lower joint. Stitching back on was not an option in them days and you did your work with what you have left.

This is my Father mowing, with his two shires Flower and Dolly, he had lost two fingers in the same sort of outfit that he worked for his uncle Dan some fifteen years earlier.

Soon after this picture was taken he bought his first tractor, a Standard Fordson which took a lot of hard work off the horses

I Remember Fathers Fingers

A tale he told us while working for his uncle Dan, he must have been around thirteen years old

Father lost two fingers, while mowing hay one day,
He was helping uncle Dan on the meadows, not at all at play,
Only thirteen started working, horses in the shaft,
The mower blocked with grass, clearing it by hand (how daft)

He lifted blade and went round back, while it was still in gear,
One horse did stamp his foot at flies, and gave the blade two shithers,
This was just enough no doubt, cut two fingers in one go,
He never said how he stopped, the blood, there must have been a flow,

The little finger it was off, above the lower joint,
The next was off above second, clean cut to a point,
Hospital took one off at knuckle, and stitch the flap of skin,
Tuther left half a stub, of finger what a sin.

No safety men to bother them, it was get him back to work,
They healed so slow, it was a blow, but not a time to shirk,
A motor bike he bought one day, to get about much quicker,
It had a belt to drive, hand clutch, and blow up tyre,

Mother he did find one day, while he was out on bike,
He gave a lift and she did find, how cold the bike could be,
Knit pair of gloves did she, to fit his fingers short,
Then regularly did see her out ,and then began to court.

Round the table Sunday breakfast, father told us tales,
Of how he helped his uncle Dan, less fingers and no bales,
We had to always asked him, to tell us that again,
Of how he lost his fingers, and all about the pain.

Owd Fred

When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.Anonymous