July / Lee, Massachusetts

Hello Girls, Highlawn Farm

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It’s a glorious day, perfect light on the trees, a breeze blows on yellow ochre silos and low slung barns with off white, gray and red trim. There’s a white milk truck parked on the front lawn of this cow farm.

Highlawn Farms. It’s a cow farm. Jersey cows. Hello girls.

Dave Klausmeyer gives me a tour of the operation. First he introduces me to Honey and Dipstick. “Honey is the only black and white cat we have here,” he reaches down and touches the cat. “And I tease Dipstick. She’s an all white cat with her tail dipped in ink.” Both cats find a shady place in the front window of the store. What a great place to be a cat.

“They treat the cows great here,”the farm worker in a green Highlawn Farm logo stitched t-shirt tells me later while we are waiting in line at the McDonalds in Lee. He smiles broadly and I see he is missing all of his front teeth.

“Every morning a man comes and feeds the calves. The calves are separated to the one stall for all calves aging from 1 day to 3 months. Then there are the 3 to 6 months calves; feisty and young. They are so young; beige, yellow ochre, black nosed, pink, eager, happy, big hoofed, dopey cows. In their open pen they all start out vying for our attention. They are curious, open, staring mooing ‘No look at me,’ ‘No me’ ‘Come see me,’ crowding each other out like eager happy kids wanting for us to see them, touch them, and get as close as we possibly can without actually getting into the pen with them. They are big even at 3 months old.

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They must milk a lot of cows here every day to supply every one of their clients. Yellow plastic numbered tags identify each cow. Cow number 587 and cow number 580 crowd to get closer to me by the railing in their pen. Their heads extend all the way out between the poles. They let me scratch their heads and then try to lick me by also extending their tongues as far as they possibly can. They muzzle and lick and chew whatever they can get their tongues on. It is a constant barrage and barter for my affection. Their noses snort hellos and each of these silly ‘girls’ preens and try to smell me through the slotted fence.

 

lee3-thumb1In the next pen further down are the four ‘men’ black bulls who are the breeders. Further down from the guys in another pen are the 6 month to 1-year-old cows. Jack drives by on his tractor, his right eye covered with a big black patch. “At 3 o’clock we’ll be calling them in for milking so make sure your car is not blocking the lane.”

Six brothers and sisters asked Dave Klausmeyer to help save their farm. He has a firm handshake which exudes a calming reassuring affirmative quality to it.If anyone can save this farm it is Dave. I can feel the bone in his hand and integrity of this man as I shake it. He is clear even in the way he talks about Highlawn Farm their cows, people, and cats. “We have only high quality products here. Make sure you drink a glass of our milk and some lemonade on the way out.”

I move my car down the lane to make drawings nearer the milking cows that have been let out to pasture. I park opposite the famous clock tower that is a landmark and identifies the farm. “It is Swiss made,” Dave tells me, “and only runs on the side you can see from the street.” That is a very New England thing to do someone tells me later.

The ‘girls’ crowd around the fence, so laden with milk that they are about ready to burst. The other cows laze around curious about seeing me draw them and move ever so slowly to sit down in the shade until exactly at 3 o’clock when intuition, or bodies heavy with milk, habit, or maybe even the call ‘yoo-hoo, come on girls!’ and the thought of more food starts a caravan up the hill and into the milking barn. More than once during the day do I look up to find myself staring directly into a cow’s mug. Dead-on and inches away; huge dopey black-eyed curiosity with cow’s questioning face, “Hey, what are you doing over there?”

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I back up my car on the rutted lane to leave and I do a three-point turn right into a ditch. I walk the quarter- mile back up by the silos, turn left at the orange-cabbed truck and head back into the office where I encounter Dipstick and Honey right where I left them; asleep in the windowsill. Families with their kids have streamed in wanting to see the calves up close and watch the cows in the milking center.

Big-bellied, bearded Mike and smaller Jim walk me back down the hill, past the manure pile. “How do you feel about hopping the fence?” “Hey, don’t worry this is no problem, turn your wheel to the left and put her in reverse.” They easily push my car as if it is just another moment in their otherwise very physical day.

“Now, hard right with your wheel,” and I am out. I roll down the window to thank them. “Stay on the dirt until you hit the paved road. We were watching you, and wondering what you were doing down here.”

I hear them call, ’hey girls’ as I drive off.

It is then that I notice it; the smell. The smell of cows that is now on me, on my clothes, in my hair, all over my car.

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