I’ve been out of a routine for the past three weeks. It’s not a daily routine that I have avoided, but a weekly one. I try to write one or two stories a week but I have fallen way behind.
I don’t like that I have done this. That time is gone and I can’t get it back. I need to organize a pattern from my regular work to my writing; drill it in my head, be discipline, practice my writing, and repeat it.
My routine would probably go smoother if I listened to advice that I read saying I should write daily, even if my words sound poor or my sentences don’t line up well. I can always edit or even throw the material away. As long as I write every day, my words will sound better and piecing together thoughts will be easier. That way, I will get stuck in a routine and I can count on that to happen every day for me. I need such a pattern…
I remember Billy Ray calling me one Saturday morning around eight years ago.
He asked me what I thought of a local dairy farm being built here for Lafayette County and Oxford locals to purchase fresh milk. I told him that I thought it would go over well here. He told me his ideas when I knew he was on to something. I ended our conversation by telling him to keep in mind when it’s Christmas morning and he has the flu with a broken leg that he still has to get up to milk. Those words never bothered him. Neither has Christmas or the flu, and he hasn’t broken either leg yet.
I wake up on a Saturday morning and my body was aching all over.
I roll over to look at the alarm clock and it was blaring at 6:30 a.m. I’m not getting up. I can barely reach my arm over my chest to pounce the button on the device that rings my mind into a chaotic spin. I know what I have to do but I don’t think I could physically get up. Rilee has given half of Billy Ray’s family the flu and now I feel like I have caught it too. My body is hot with a concerning temperature so I lay still in my dark bedroom thinking of ways to get out of milking. I know I have to get up. I am the only one who milks on Saturday mornings. Billy Ray will be in Hernando, Joe is off on Saturdays and Paula has the flu – so I’m screwed.
The alarm clock goes off again and I get up just like I do every Saturday morning, except with not so much eagerness.
On a dairy farm, milking happens twice a day for 365 days out of a year. Some things change each day on the farm and sometimes nothing changes. But you can always count on the process of milking being the same every time. It’s routine. A pattern. It’s a practice I have learned and I repeat it every Wednesday night, every other Friday night, and every Saturday morning. Those are my scheduled work shifts for Brown Family Dairy.
I pull up to the dairy and I know the steps I am fixing to take. There is a pattern we follow.
I walk into the pasteurizing room and grab a paper filter. I ease my way out of that room and down into the milk parlor to start setting up for the morning’s milking. A filter is seen attached inside its tube to catch any trash that cycles through the milk pumps before entering the milk tank. I began unhooking the suction devices. I detach another pipe seal it with a clamp. I walk around to the feed troughs to stick plugs in the middle of the bowls so feed will not fall out of the hole that is cut into the bottom. I keep circling back around and then into the milk tank room to grab a steel pipe so I could strap it down and into the tank for the milk to flow into.
I’m almost ready to bring the girls in to eat and be milked. I leave this room to grab a feed sack and then walk back into the parlor where I go around to the top where the troughs are. I have four troughs to fill so I’ll need another bag after this one empties on the third trough. I lay the empty bag down to get another full one. After filling the last trough, I close all the gates that will not let cows enter certain pens or out of certain pens. They have one that is a straight shot in and another one a straight shot out. I walk back down into the parlor and then set up a milk carton for napkins that will be thrown away, set out my pre- and post-dip with rolls of napkins. I walk back up the steps and out of the parlor to turn on the vacuum pump… Now, it’s time to milk.
Billy Ray and Paula started out with four cows when they started their journey of being dairy farmers eight years ago. Now on a Saturday morning, I milked twenty-eight.
The cows run in four at a time to eat and to be milked. Their udders are the first thing I clean. Then I strap on suction devices for milking. After milk flow has slowed or stopped I take off the devices to take care of the udders with a post-dip that stays on until the next milking. All this happens over and over. I milk four at a time where I do the same steps over and over until the last set of cows leave the barn. This is a routine that never changes.
If I want a routine for my writing then I have to practice it every day.
I’ve learned this from reading certain things and I’ve learned it through work my brother gives me on the dairy. I’ve also learned from getting away from it for the last three weeks. I haven’t been myself and I don’t like it. When I write these little short stories I feel different about myself, and that difference makes me feel better about what I’m doing. It also makes me feel closer to a different step in a process I’ve been on. I know I have to figure out a pattern and make all of this a routine.
I need a routine.
Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.
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