I rolled over in bed and opened my eyes. The clock on the dresser read six twenty-five. I had a habit of waking up in time to milk but this morning the fire in the wood stove had been left to die out and the house was chilly in the morning air. It felt good to stay in bed a little longer than usual and besides it was probably still too dark to do chores yet anyway. I just laid there relaxing under the warmth of two thick blankets trying to feel like getting up.
A few minutes later I reopened my eyes to find that the clock read six thirty-one. Flipping the covers off, I slipped out of bed, ducking to avoid striking my forehead on the bunk above me and walked softly to the peg where my jeans were hung. After dressing quietly in the bathroom I was trying to walk as silently as I could through the hall leading to the kitchen when I stumbled on a box that was invisible to me in the darkness. Just then I heard one of my brothers roll over in bed so I waited until all was quiet again and then entered the kitchen.
The glow of moonlight that shown through the window was enough to allow me to make my way noiselessly to the lamp resting on the sill above the sink and switch it on. I moved over to where the stainless steel milk pail and dishes were kept and brought them to the sink, filled the smallest dish with warm soapy water and then setting it carefully into the other dishes I picked up the handle and carried them along with me. On my way to the door I stopped and opened up a small container above my desk and picked out a wash cloth and dropped it into the soapy water.
In the entry way I stooped down to put on my sturdy leather work boots and before I had tied the first knot I felt two small paws pounce on my hand and then disappear into the shadows. It was the kitten we had kept in the house since it was small, playing with the laces of my boots as I tied them. Reaching out and picking up the cat I stroked its soft fur and it began to purr contentedly.
By now the darkness outside had become a lighter shade of gray as the sun approached the eastern horizon and I knew I probably should have been down in the barn by now. So, I buttoned up my faded denim chore jacket, grabbed my well used LED flashlight and picked up the milk pail and headed outside. Samson, our family German shepherd dog, slipped from his dog house and came trotting towards me wagging his tail excitedly. With my free hand I reached down and petted him as he came up and he gave a groan like he does when you find the right spot as my fingers scratched his ear. I told him he was a good dog as we started down the trail to the barn and he gave a little bark to show he understood what I was saying.
I walked down the wood chip covered pathway winding down the hill to the chicken coop, sweeping the ground ahead of me with the beam of my flashlight. The sound of my feet crunching the blades of frozen grass alerted the animals of my approach and the horse greeted me with a friendly nicker as I passed by.
With one smooth motion I unfastened the latch on the barn door and it creaked as it swung open, resting heavily on the strap hinges that supported it. After I closed the door I heard the rustle of the goats moving closer to the small interior door waiting their turn to be brought out and milked. Opening the cabinet where I kept grain and other items commonly needed in the barn I set the milking pail and dishes on an empty shelf and lifted the wooden latch on the goat door to let the first goat out onto the milking stand. With a graceful jump the goat was on the stand putting its head through the slot into the feed tray. I tossed a partial scoop of corn and oats into the bin for her to eat and wiped its udder with the wash cloth. Samson gave a contented sigh as he settled down into a pile of straw near by and watched me take the bowl down and begin to milk.
A little bit later I poured the contents of the smaller bowl into the larger two gallon container and brought out the second animal. This one did not jump up onto the milking stand so easily but was eager to have the grain in the tray so it managed well enough.
In a couple minutes I finished stripping out the last goat and poured the rich white milk into the pail thinking to myself of all the delicious food that it would be made into. Samson stood up when the last animal was put away and put his paws on the milk stand as I lowered the empty dish down for him to lap up any milk left in the bottom. I splashed the rest of the soapy water over the bowl when he was done and wrung out the washcloth onto the dirt floor and stacked the empty dishes. A few steps later I was outside in the morning air, headed for the house with Samson trotting along beside me.