Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Milk Cart

Clip, clop, clip, clop.... Early morning in a small Ohio town, early 1940s,  clip, clop, clip, clop,  the sound of the milk cart horse’s hooves rings through the crisp fall morning air. 

This is Chillicothe, Ohio,  774 Jefferson Avenue to be specific. A small boy sits on the front steps of his modest house waiting for the milkman and the faithful horse which pulls the cart. In a small boy’s eyes is a wonderful thing to see. The big brown horse making funny noises with his lips, steam coming from his nose,  pulling the milk cart so effortlessly.

Most fascinating is that the horse knows exactly where to stop along the street to drop off the milkman. The milkman mostly walks the route, stepping  in and out of the cart as it stops in front of a customer’s house, selecting the items he will need for this house, and for one or two more houses next door or across the street.   As he steps out of the cart, the horse, slowly, dutifully starts on down the street to stop at his next appointed stop. The horse never seems to refer to a route guide, or a list of customer addresses,  but just  “knows" what to do.  

Now it is a wonderful thing, in this present time, to be able to go to the grocery store and pick up ice cold milk that's been homogenized and pasteurized and bottled or placed in sterile cartons for immediate use. But it certainly can’t match the charm of being able to sneak out of the house first thing in the morning on a cold day and to spy the bottles of non-homogenized milk in which the cream has risen up to the top of the bottle. On a really cold day the cream will have frozen and pushed the paper cap off making a really inviting pure cream “ice cream substitute” for the little boy who forgets that the penalty will be a spanking when mother finds out. It certainly proves that the boys have very short memories as this scene will be repeated a number of times with the same result each time.

The milkman quickly trots up to each customer's house to put the milk, cream or other products on the front porch, sometimes placing them into a box that is set up for this purpose. Then he goes to the next house eventually ending up back up at the milk cart where the horse, knowing the entire route, has stopped and is patiently waiting, or maybe impatiently waiting, but who can know what a horse is thinking as it stands there with his head down gazing at the ground.
Clip, clop, clip, clop, the horse and milk cart move on down the street.  Having observed, marveled and partaken, the boy sits back down on the porch to await the next adventure, the ice truck.


JayArty said...

By the early to mid 50's, the horses had been replaced by delivery trucks, at least in the eastern, more urban environments I remember as a boy, but we still had those galvanized, insulated boxes by the kitchen door, and the milk was still from local dairies and, in my earliest memories, still unhomogenized, although that may be a memory from post-war Europe. Thanks, Pat. You've told us this story, but it's a great read anyway. More! More!

Patrick Collins said...

Thanks! I told my offspring I would tell a little of what is was like growing up in the dark ages. I am starting to jot down some of the memories that I have cherished over the years.

I didn't recognize "JayArty" and wondered who you were. Then I saw retired teacher farmer and knew!

But from where I sit it sure seems like you are still teaching and farming, and the world benefits from your hard work and wise counsel.

kevin said...

As an early memory, I remember a tin box on our porch. I'm not sure which house we lived in at the time, probably in dayton, but i do remember seeing a silver tin box with a hinged lid on top sitting on the front porch. I think I put the cat in there a time or two! Dad, please keep the stories and inspirational writings coming! You have a real gift! Love you!

Patrick Collins said...

Thanks Kev. I will have some about you and your exploits as we go forward!! Love Ya. Dad

Amy Carnes Hoey said...

I really like this, Patrick! Please keep writing and shaing pictures - I sent the link out to the family and we will all enjoy your stories! You write wonderfully!