When Rhonda and I are off touring around the country it is a ‘game’ of ours to make up seemingly credible tall tales associated with some aspect of our trip.
We’ve been doing this since we first met over 40 years ago and we continued it as we grew together and as Kat, our daughter grew up.
In the beginning it was all innocent enough – a simple observation by Rhonda - and I carried it on into a string of “facts” that, at first she was believing, and then realised I was telling tall fibs and we laughed later about the trip – and that not only started the tradition it became a base for a ‘common remark’ that brought us all back together again.
I seem to remember it was some dairy cows, friesians I believe, on the hillside outside of Kiama, a coastal areas south of Sydney.
Rhonda commented that all the cows were walking around the hill facing the same direction. Now, anyone who knows dairy cows knows that they will always move as a herd in the same direction – usually from the milking sheds and then back towards them for the next milking. At least, that’s what my Uncle Bert taught me about his dairy cows.
Jokingly, I said, ‘That’s to make sure the milk stays level in their udders!’ She looked at me in disbelief. So keeping a serious face and talking as if I knew what I was talking about, I continued. ‘No, seriously, they have two legs shorter than the other. It’s very common in these parts. It’s because its so steep on these coastal hillsides, the two short legs are on the up-hill side and the two long ones on the downhill side.’
We travelled on for a while. I could see her thinking about it as I stifled the urge to laugh, let alone smile.
‘What if they want to go the other way around the hill?’ she asked.
‘Ahhhh! But they don’t, you see. The milking sheds are on the other side of the hill and they leave them after being miked and continue their grazing around the hill until they return outside the shed. In the morning the farmer finds them all lined up in the yard outside the shed and he’s just got to walk them in, milk them and turn them out again.’
We drove on in silence for about another ten minutes.
‘How can he milk them if they have two legs shorter than the other? You are having me on, aren’t you?’
‘No! No!’, I was quick to protest. ‘His shed is specially built so that it has a split floor with one section higher than the other and he just works from the low side. It’s like a Rota-lactor! You know, one of those circular, automatic, milking sheds. He just attaches the milking heads to the teats and when she’s finished giving milk they just drop off. In the meantime she munches on some good lucerne hay as she’s moved around the milker.’
‘Well, I still think you are having me on!’ she said.
About an hour or so later we arrived at her parents home, just in time for dinner. As we were eating she turned to her father, a real knowledgeable man of the world and asked:
“Dad, do the cows at Kiama really have two legs shorter than the other to keep the milk level as they walk around the hillsides?”
Her father stopped in the middle of his dinner, looked at her studiously and then looked over at myself. I could almost hear his brain ticking over and I expected a blast from the father of this innocent girl.
That’s right,’ he said. 'But its more to stop the cream from slipping off the top of the milk, darling.’ And he put his head down and went back to his dinner.
There was silence in the dining area until all of a sudden her mother said:
‘You men, I don’t know why and how you can be so mean!’
We all looked at each other and burst out laughing and ever since that day I only have to mention the milk and the cream or the Kiama cows and Rhonda and I have a good chuckle!
Next time, I'll tell you about "The Pot Hole Men"!