Bob Mitchell: Dairying once was a June observance

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

This Friday moves us into the sixth month of 2018 — June, which was once a significant time for Cassville to honor a one-time major industry for Barry County.

It was June Dairy Month, time to recognize those throughout the county that twice a day went through the chores of milking their herd.

That was a time when the Pet Milk receiving station was in Cassville and a similar facility for Kraft was operating out of Wheaton, targeting this area as a significant source of milk for that industry.

To so honor June Dairy Month, Pet Milk people spearheaded one of the biggest observations this town had ever known. Young ladies from throughout the county were involved, as contestants for the title of Miss Barry County Dairy Queen. Competition was stiff for the honor, with finals located in the auditorium of the old high school in early years.

Field men for the company, Eldon Robb, Jake Hawk, Keith Shepherd and local plant manager C. S. “Bing” Miller played lead roles in coordinating Chamber of Commerce activities for the observance.

Usually, there were professional people doing the judging, which included interviews and presentation of talent. There was a cash award for the winner and an opportunity to compete for further recognition for industry honors.

Competition also existed among the leading dairy producers who participated in the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. Those supporting the DHIA were on a strict record-keeping program that each month rated the leading herds in the county. Some producers that held the top spots a number of times were Ernest Cowherd, Larry Purdom and Dean Douglas. Purdom, a Purdy area dairy farmer is still in the industry and is probably the current dean of the producers. He has also been active in dairy industry policies and political functions.

Cassville restaurants did their part during June Dairy Month in promoting specials and boosting use of pure dairy products instead of substitutes. Grocery outlets were also in line for the promotions with specials out of their shelves during the period. Farm industry businesses promoted the industry through congratulations published in the Cassville Democrat.

Often, the newspaper’s front page was virtually complete with pictures of the candidates for Barry County Queen.

Haulers were important

Getting the dairy product from the farm to Pet’s receiving station in Cassville was the contract job of the milk haulers. They would travel the dirt roads twice daily making pickups of 10-gallon milk cans in the morning the then returning the empties in the afternoon, ready for that evening’s second milking of the day.

Their existence was important to the area’s economy, purchasing vehicles, maintenance and fuel from the various sources in the community.

Names that I recall include Artie Spain, Bill Frost, Tom Nicoll, Bill Gunnels, and others who were in the Pet fleet and also others that hauled to Kraft facilities at Wheaton. Rhea Harvey was the manager of that facility.

Upon arrival at the plant, the milk cans went on a roller track into the facility where the product was tested then dumped into cooling facilities. The cans were then steam washed, and then went on an outgoing track. Haulers then picked them up by number and returned them to the farm for that evening’s milking.

There were some challenges involved in hauling, which occasionally included a drag race on the Laidlaw farm on Highway 37 south of the 4-way stop with caution to warn traffic south of the route.

Where has this year gone?

With the arrival of this point of the year, many are wondering where this year has gone, but their real thoughts are realizing that some garden products are beginning to appear. Even some, who apparently have early season growing facilities are beginning to produce radishes for their favored friends.

Naturally, the prime produce conversations center around who will bring forth the first tomato off their vines for this season. That will be a topic for discussion between now and sometime in June, for those growers who might have survived some of this past month’s cold snaps.

Holidays ahead

There are about three days ahead of us that we choose to recognize as a part of history often forgotten, but burned into the memory of some of us.

First will be June 6, the day in 1944 when U.S. led forces stormed across the English Channel in D-Day operations that eventually defeated Germany in WWII. The next will be June 14, designated as Flag Day, which hopefully needs no explanation. Father’s Day rolls around on June 17 and then June 21 is the first day of summer and just one more week in the month

Hopefully, by the time we reach this point, there will be someone with a tomato crop that growers can be talking about, and with quantity of the crop sufficient for sharing with less fortunate growers and non-producers.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.