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43—MOOving Toward the Millennium

The June Dairy Parade is an annual event that winds through the main streets of Tillamook to celebrate June Dairy Month. It lasts all Saturday morning and is full of music and color. You never forget your first dairy parade because, at least from my experience over the last fifteen years, they’re all pretty much the same. Except for the theme. And the horsepower.
1962 Dairy Parade Princess and Court
The theme of my first parade back in 1999 was Moving Toward The Millennium. It was the best parade I’d ever seen and continues to be—even better than the Rose Parade and Macy’s. Not because the floats are flashier and the marchers more glamorous. Just the opposite. It’s a parade of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The parade goes on rain or shine. Hey, if you can milk cows twice a day, no matter if it’s flooding, or below zero, or Christmas, you can show up to celebrate the month honoring what you do. As it turned out, the day of my first parade was blue and sunny. 

A boy scout carrying the American flag led the parade, followed by more boy scouts on their bicycles with crepe paper wound through the spokes. 

Then came Tillamook Dairy Band, crisply brass and decked out in green T-shirts, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. Well actually, there was also one pair of chinos and a pair of white denims, a teal T-shirt, a flowered Hawaiian shirt, and four pairs of work boots. The cymbal player was a middle-aged housewife happily crashing up the rear.  

When the flag passed, everyone rose. Except for a moody teenager in grunge. His mother ordered him up, and the crowd cheered her.

The Dairy Princess and her court rode regally by in a Y2K CowPliant Float. All peachy in their youth, gowns, and enthusiasm for milk, these girls did not seem to be the usual pedestal divas but robust young women who already knew how to shovel away the shit to get where they wanted to go.
Mayor Bob McPheeters came through, high on the back of a convertible seat, waving a carton of—yep—Tillamook milk. 
The Mayor’s Award went to a big white cloud of a float built by Tillamook County churches and sponsored by Genesis Computer Services.  

An exterminator company turned its cardboard guns on a big jiggly millennium bug, followed by a flatbed carrying the Coast Swingers in full square-dance regalia, the men promenading their partners home to the sound of fiddle and caller.  

42—Fellini At the Honor Dairy

On the morning of my second farm tour, The Complete Cow by Sara Rath arrived. On the first page, this quote from Frank Lloyd Wright: “Has anyone sung the song of the patient, calf-bearing, milk-flowing, cud-chewing, tail-switching cow?” 
Wishing to be a singer, I boarded the little yellow cheese bus that afternoon with great enthusiasm.

In short order, our tour group was disembarking in front of the no-frills farmhouse—me in my cow socks followed by a young Phoenix couple with two boistrous and chatty children. . . a small nerdy hunchback dressed in white from his blousy linen shirt to his canvas boat shoes. . . and a gregarious beef farmer on vacation from Missouri with his chipper wife, and rosy-cheeked teenage son and daughter, both bred and raised on that midwestern can-do confidence and red meat.

The sign at the entrance to the farm proclaimed it an “Honor Dairy,” and welcoming us was the dairy farmer’s wife. A hearty woman, she was clad in faded denim and a demeanor suggesting her idea of relaxing after a long day in the field might be bench pressing a 90-pound calf. 

As she led us toward the big metal barn and milking parlor, the air grew thick with the smell of excrement. My eyes began watering as we stepped from the sunny blue day into the big dark barn, damp with the reek rising up from the mucky ooze of manure and urine on the cement walkways between the empty stalls. 

Where was Hercules when we needed him? As partial punishment for killing his wife and children—a crime he was unwittingly condemned by the goddess Hera to commit—the hapless hero was assigned the task of cleaning the Agean Stables. Home to thousands of cows, goats, bulls, sheep, and horses, these stables were a wretched mess. To begin, Hercules knocked a hole in each side of the stable, then dug trenches to the stable from nearby rivers and rerouted the water. As the rivers rushed though one side of the stable and out the other, the water took all the muck with it. 

Moving around the periphery of the barn, we came to a dozen corralled in a pen made of metal bars.
The boisterous children, catching sight of kittens frolicking on some hay bales, went squealing off in pursuit of the terrified kittens. The twenty-two heifers in a metal corral across from the calves grew agitated and—with the slippery stinking mud of their own excrement up over their hooves—began sliding into each other like bumper cars.

You’ve got a great operation here!” exclaimed the beef farmer enthusiastically. 

At first I thought he was being sarcastic. But the beef man was breathing it all in, loving the smell of napalm in the morning.

41—Stepping Into the Business of Dairy Farming Wearing White Sneakers and Cow Socks

Wearing the cow socks I’d bought with my field guide to cows, I boarded the little yellow cheese bus in front of the cheese factory, eager for my first farm tour and meeting some cows up close and personal.

“Hi,” said the young blonde woman in denim overalls standing up front, “my name is Mandy, “and I’ll be your guide this afternoon.” Mandy introduced herself as a high-school junior and farm girl active in 4-H. She used to scoop out cones of Tillamook ice cream at the factory but was now working in fudge. Doing tours was a bonus, and she was glad to have a full bus. 

Even in overalls, our little Mandy exuded a prom-pink sweetness. 

Before leaving the parking lot, the bus paused in front of a replica of the Morning Star, a ship constructed in 1855 to carry the left-over milk and butter of Tillamook’s pioneer farmers up the coast and inland to Portland. As they exchanged these goods for supplies, the Tillamook dairy industry was born. Because milk spoiled easily in transport, the farmers began making cheese.  (Click on link under the picture for your own tour.)

On the way to our destination, Mandy pointed out different breeds of cows grazing in the fields:  
Holsteins produce the most milk.    
The brown and white Guernseys produce the rich milk with cream on top. 
The tan Jersey’s milk is highest in butterfat.  
The Brown Swiss are the heartiest and also great producers of butterfat.
Dutch Belted cowsknown locally as Oreo cows because of the white stripe around the middle of their black bodies—eat more grass than grain so need a lot of pasture.


Brown Swiss

While learning about cows, we passed around baggies of feed—corn, various grain pellets and pellets of beet pulp, soybean meal,barley, canola meal, and delinted cottonseed, along with whole fuzzy cottonseed to clean out the cows stomachs. All this food had a high fat content because farmers get paid according to the butterfat content.

Dutch Belted

Our guide then launched into the specifics of artificial insemination—A I, as Mandy referred to the breeding procedure in which freeze-dried sperm is injected into the cow. “And if the A I doesn’t take,” our prom-pink farm girl added, “we just stick the cow in a pen with a bull.” 
She then passed around a catalogue of available bulls whose studly sperm stats were outlined under their pictures. These big boys sported such bullish names as Caleb, Durham, Black Bart, Emerson, and Kenneth.

Someone in the group asked Mandy about her plans for the future. 
“A doctor,” she said, “but I don’t know if I want to work on people or animals.”