Farm Fun on The Fourth

Laugh Tracks in the Dust

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When I wuz a kid, the Fourth of July topped my list as the best summer holiday. Wuzn’t nuthin’ better than finding creative ways to enjoy fireworks. I’m writing this column on June 27 and my July 4th memories track back to some of those creative fireworks use. Here are some of them.

Back in the early 1950s, my ol’ pappy, Czar E. Yield, wuz one of the early farmers in Bourbon County to plant soybeans. At the time, soybeans were an innovative crop and it wuz before the advent of herbicides. Therefore, ol’ Czar saw fit to give little ol’ Milo a daily task of pulling cockleburs from one mile of soybean rows. You can imagine, I had little love for the task, but no alternative other than to do it.

So, in early July somehow I acquired a big batch of two-inch firecrackers and some punks for lighting them. Creative me put the firecrackers under the roots of cockleburs and blew them out of the ground. For sure it wuz less efficient than simply pulling the burs, but it wuz way more fun for me.

Back in those days, firework sales weren’t regulated and anyone could buy really dangerous fireworks like M80s. One way I enjoyed using M80s wuz as underwater explosives. I discovered that the fuse on an M80, once lit, would continue to burn under water. So, I would weigh down an M80 with a rusty steel washer, light the fuse, and drop it into a pool of water. When it exploded seconds later, a lot of the fish in the pool would rise to the surface. It wuz dangerous and unsportsmanlike, but to a farm kid it wuz fun in the extreme.

Another use of fireworks back on the farm wuz “marble war” with my good friend and neighbor, ol’ Brosen Burgh. He and I would each get a 3-inch-long threaded pipe nipple of half-inch diameter. We would cap one end of the pipe. Then the open end formed a 3-inch hand-held “marble cannon.” We would put a 2-inch firecracker inside the pipe and stuff a glass marble inside, leaving the fuse where we could light it.

When the firecracker exploded, the marble would blast out and easily travel 50 yards or more. Brosen and I would happily shoot marbles at each other. We never gave a thought to personal safety. Thankfully, we didn’t get injured. But we sure had a lot of dangerous fun.

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Sometimes I wonder why it is that even the simplest everyday items in our lives can quickly become politicized. The most recent such item that I’ve become aware of is none other than milk. Yep! Just plain ol’ cows’ milk. Today, in woke America it’s become highly politicized.

From ancient times when humans first domesticated bovines, humans have drank milk. And, up until 130 years ago, they always drank raw milk straight from ol’ Bossy. In fact, I wuz raised on raw milk in my childhood in the mid-1900s. We had milk cows on our farm and we kept milk from the cow with the highest butterfat in her milk to drink and to cook with. In the milk barn, we strained the milk through a strainer pad to extract the flies, cow hair and bits of dirt and manure before we took it to the house for consumption. That was processing in its simplest form.

My earliest memory of raw cow milk wuz lifting the layer of thick cream from the top of the milk jar and putting it on top of my cold or hot cereal for breakfasts. That early experience with cream carried right into old age. I still use Half & Half every single day.

But, back to the controversy. From what I’ve read, 130 years ago pasteurizing milk wuz invented. That’s when the medical and nutrition experts came concluded that drinking raw, unpasteurized milk wuz dangerous. And, consumers bought into that conclusion because, yes, indeed, folks can get sick from the microorganisms in raw milk. But, history shows, the number of raw milk drinkers who became sick was always a minuscule number.

Millions and millions of folks drank raw milk for centuries with no side effects at all. Growing up, every farm kid I knew drank raw milk. And, not once in my life have I known anyone who got sick from raw milk.

The milk controversy today centers on the majority of milk drinkers who prefer their milk pasteurized at 70 degrees Centigrade and the growing minority of milk consumers who are choosing to go back to drinking raw milk. No longer are the raw milk drinkers confined to farmers, hippies and off-the-gridders. You can find “raw” milk on sale in corner shops and trendy health food stores across America. Its proponents argue that it helps with weight loss, gut health, lactose intolerance and natural disease tolerance. In short, pasteurization, once a consensus issue, has become the latest frontier in America’s never-ending culture war.

Public health officials say that drinking the milk is dangerous, and could lead to a spike in potentially deadly bacterial and viral infections. But still, I’ve read market data saying there has been at least a 20 per cent increase in demand for raw milk in the last year nationwide. State politicians are facing demands to liberalize decades-old food safety laws. Some states are even passing laws to allow raw milk sales. The latest bill to repeal an outright ban on raw milk hit the governor’s desk in Louisiana, after similar efforts in West Virginia, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.

The way I see it the milk controversy is easily solved uncontroversially. Let folks drink raw milk if they choose. If they get sick, they made the choice. Don’t let them sue if they get sick. As for me personally, I’d gladly go back to raw milk if I knew of a reliable dairy farm where I could buy it at a competitive price with pasteurized milk.

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Okay, enuf about marble wars, milk wars, and culture wars. My words of wisdom for the week are: “We live in a time where intelligent people are silenced so that stupid people won’t be offended.” Also, “The biggest joke on mankind is that computers have begun asking humans to prove they aren’t a robot.” Have a good ‘un.

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