In today’s world, we use abbreviations — like DOT, DOC or FCC — on a regular basis. The one I want to talk about in this story is the FFA, or Future Farmers of America. This was the organization I belonged to while taking agriculture in high school. Ah, those four wonderful years at the old high school.
In those days, if you were a boy and didn’t much plan on attending college, you would take courses like industrial arts or agriculture. Well, being raised on a farm and not having much ambition to go to college, I took four years of agriculture.
My agriculture teacher was getting on up in years and had taught at our high school for most of his life. A lot of his hair was missing; I reckon he’d pulled it out while dealing with so many young boys like myself. He was an excellent teacher, though, and had the patience of Job.
I do remember a few times he got upset, like the time some of the young fellows nailed his chair to the floor when he had stepped out of the room. Also, the time a couple of the young fellows got into a fight in the room where our finished woodworking projects had been on display. Why, he just picked them two boys up by the seat of their britches and threw them out the front door. “Now finish it outside,” he told those boys. The rest of us boys just laughed at them so they forgot about fighting.
In the back of the agriculture class was a large woodworking shop. It was our job as freshmen to keep the shop clean and stain the picnic tables the older boys had made during the year. The cypress tables were well-made and would be sold to the public. The money collected would be used to help fund our yearly trip to FFA camp, replace wood in the shop, and if any was left over, we would use it to go to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh in the fall.
Every year around the middle of October, our agriculture class would load up on the activity bus and head to the state fair. Just about every boy would be proudly wearing his blue FFA jacket. There would be a lot of excitement on the bus from the older boys telling about their past trips to the fair. This was a big trip for us because some of the boys had never been out of Richmond County before.
When we arrived at the fair, the teacher told us we could split up and go anywhere on the fairgrounds but to be back on the bus by 4 p.m. sharp and if we were not, the bus would leave without us. Well, our little group started out where the equipment dealers displayed all their farm equipment. The dealers had put the equipment there supposedly to help save the farmers some labor, but I think they were more interested in the farmers’ pocketbooks, because that stuff was high.
After viewing the farm equipment, our little group headed on down to the livestock barn where they keep those large hogs and cows. While walking through the stalls, we met this here fellow leading this big Holstein cow. I asked him, “Where you going with your cow?”
He said, “Going to hook her up to an automatic milking machine, you ever seen one in operation?”
Well I said, “No sir, but I’d like to.”
You see, I’d been raised on a farm and we had a cow or two, but we did our milking the old timey way — by hand. Well, we followed behind the guy until he led the cow in a stall which had this machine that had all types of hoses and tanks hooked to it. To tell you the truth, I don’t think that cow had seen many of these machines, because that cow was a-lookin’ around and mooing every breath.
The guy hooked all the hoses up to the cows utters and flipped the switch. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for the cow or run. Why, it looked like an octopus had a hold of that poor cow. She was a-mooing and milk was going everywhere. Well, they finally sucked her dry and were a-goin’ to get another one. I had seen all I needed to see of that ordeal.
Next week, I’ll share more about our trip to the state fair.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild and a member of the Story Spinners in Laurinburg.