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Twenty-two Elderly Cows

Chapter 3 of Farming, Harry Cooley's autobiography about the Cooley Farm in Randolph Center, which Korongo is preparing to publish later this spring.

By Harry Cooley

We found our new home a better farm than we had earlier in Georgia or Essex. It was made up of 160 acres of land, some of which was very good loam soil, although somewhat rocky. The upper part was all in pasture and much of the lower fields had never been plowed. During the next ten years we brought much of the lower land into tillage, and in the 1920s and 1930s I plowed and fertilized much of the upland pasture. The barns were old with an upstairs stable and a manure basement below.

Our dairy was made up of twenty-two elderly Jersey cows. A team of rather ordinary horses and an array of old farm tools made up the operating equipment. We milked by hand, separated the cream in a Sharples separator operated by a sheep working in a small treadmill, and delivered the cream every other day at the Cooperative Creamery in Randolph, where it was made into butter. The skim milk we fed to the pigs and calves.

I helped Father on the farm for the first year.

My three brothers started in school at the Randolph Center graded school, called the training school on account of its association with the Normal School, which was then in its last year of existence. I helped Father on the farm for the first year. We filled silo, dug potatoes, picked apples, had cider made, plowed, hauled manure, and made syrup.

We attended the (then) Federated Church at the Center, changed work with the neighbors, and got generally acquainted. My brothers had more contact with the young people than I did. I missed my schoolmates in Essex but was too busy to do much socializing. During the late winter, Father bought a pair of oxen to help out the old horses, and I drove them during spring’s work.

We got the idea that we were making history.

In September, the Vermont School of Agriculture opened at the Center, and I enrolled. The Normal School building became our classroom, and the Maplewood buildings and land were joined to it. I lived at home but enjoyed the contact with boys of my own age and the four young men who made up the faculty, especially the principal, G. L. Green. The student body numbered about fifty from all parts of the state with varying degrees of preparation and sophistication. We got the idea that we were making history as the first (or best) group of our kind in the state and tried our best to promote the new school, VSA.

I received much experience in running a meeting.

In the winter term, we organized a debating society on the plan of the old Lyceums, which were common in the country districts in earlier days. This was managed completely by students with only a very little help from the faculty. I was chosen president or chairman and received much experience in running a meeting, which has been of great help to me all my life in many positions I have occupied in town and state.

We did many things at a disadvantage.

I and my brothers were able to help Father on the farm enough so he seldom paid out any money for hired help. Looking back on those years, I realize that we did many things at a disadvantage due to our constant emphasis on economy rather than enterprise.

The business was getting smaller all the time.

Our class at VSA graduated in June 1913, and I continued to work full-time on the farm. That year, I helped remodel the old barn with help from a local carpenter, Mr. Horace Kibby. We patched the roofs, tore down some old lean-to, and built new horse stalls but did nothing to increase size of the business, which in fact was getting smaller all the time.

We began to raise more potatoes.

That year, we began to raise more potatoes. My brother Hollis and I (Sumner was attending VSA) dug seven hundred bushels of potatoes by hand, sorted them, and carried them down cellar. In the spring we sorted them again, bagged them, and sold them for twenty-five cents a bushel. It was evident that my family could get along without my services, which so far had been for free.


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