Although the cows are gone, the memories and traditions remain

Michelle Stangler
Gathering in the barn for the final milking back in 2018 are from left, Tracy Stangler, Amber (Stangler) Cano, Sheldon Stangler, Marie Stangler and Michelle Stangler.

Any farm kid who grew up on a dairy farm can relate to the long wait before opening gifts at Christmastime. Chores came first, then gift opening. Sometimes it felt like hours before my dad came in after morning milking and chores, but typically it was around 9 or 10 a.m. Once he came into the house there was a rush to begin opening gifts from me, who was the most impatient one in the family.

Our holidays, however, changed in 2018. There was no need to wait any longer or be dependent on the cows' milking time.

A memorable Christmas that stands our for me was in 2018 when we were in the process of selling our cows at a sale in Richland Center on Dec. 26. The cows were moved to the facility a few days prior so the only chores on Christmas were to take care of the young stock.

The holidays leading up to 2018 were filled with helping my dad during the break with hard, but meaningful work. Dairy farming isn’t easy, but those times spent milking with my dad were special and sometimes missed.

That holiday and every holiday after the sale is now changed. However, our family's love for the dairy industry hasn’t. We still gather and share memories during the holidays.

The stories are not forgotten and I still recall the names of the cows – Juno, Siete and many more. One year we had a calf on Christmas Day that we named Chris. She turned out to be a great cow in our herd.

One day I hope to visit a farm where some of our animals now call home. I hope those folks are as impacted by the presence of those animals as I was.

For me, the best gift was having our family all in the same place at one time. Lately I've begun appreciating this time together more and more. As my sisters and I grow older and become busier with college, work, and spending time with friends, we still make an effort to all gather together.

Some traditions we still share year-to-year include pumpkin carving in October, and try to fit in cookie decorating and gingerbread house making in December. When I was younger, making a gingerbread house from a kit was time consuming and I had a difficult time putting mine together. My older sisters, Tracy and Amber, would always have to help fix mine since I didn't have enough patience to wait for the frosting to hold the walls and roof together. Sometimes the roof would collapse or the foundation would break, causing the house to sink and collapse. Traditions may change over time but the memories made are not forgotten.

Year to year, the way we come together may look different, but the purpose remains the same; to gather and celebrate the holiday with each other. My family and I are appreciative that dairy farming brought us close together, but even though the milking herd is gone, our traditions and stories remain unchanged.