The O’Learys of Cannibal Island Road, Part II

The O'Leary Ranch on Cannibal Island Road - Loleta California. The photo was taken by Terri's uncle, Edmund O'Leary who learned to fly in WWII. The Eel River is just out of sight near the top of the photo. The O'Learys also once had a ranch directly across the river on the Ferndale side of the valley. Directly across the street near the bottom of the photo is another ranch and house. Terri's grandmother Laverne complained about the house saying, "If I wanted neighbors I would have moved to town."

The O’Leary Ranch on Cannibal Island Road – Loleta California. The photo was taken by Terri’s uncle, Edmund O’Leary who learned to fly in WWII. The Eel River is just out of sight near the top of the photo. The O’Learys also once had a ranch directly across the river on the Ferndale side of the valley. Across the street near the bottom of the photo is another ranch and house. Terri’s grandmother Laverne once complained about the house saying, “If I wanted neighbors I would have moved to town.”

When Terri, Mike and I would visit at the O’Leary ranch in the 70’s there wasn’t always much for me to do. So I hung out with Terri’s grandpa Art and uncle Edmund, mostly in the barn. And I learned a lot. I once heard Art refer to a cow as “Bossy.” I said, “So you name your cows, Art?” He replied, “Yep” (he said “Yep” a lot). He continued, “I have 70 cows and they are all named Bossy.” And I learned that there were different cows for different purposes. Some produced more butterfat. Some just produced more milk overall. Art and Edmund had the three primary breeds of cows at that time (Holstein, Jersey and Guernsey). All three types are pictured here as they walk to the barn for their 4:00pm milking. Each cow btw always returned to its own stanchion when entering the barn. And they listened to classical music during milking which increased their output.

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Dairying was a serious business. Cows were “livestock” and each was worth a lot of money. The O’Leary’s had just one phone at their ranch. It was in the barn to call the vet if a cow got sick. Art was in his 70’s then so he worked in the milk shed where the milk that was collected was kept at just above freezing in stainless steel vats. Edmund was the “milker,” an incredibly tedious job. Although automation was used to milk the cows the entire process took up to five hours, twice a day. Most of the effort involved cleaning up and getting ready for the next milking 12 hours later. There were no days off.

Milk cows were rotated out of the herd at about age seven when their productivity began to decline. Their next stop would be the auction yard, where representatives from McDonald’s and other fast food businesses would find one more use for the animals.

As people read this I know some may ask, how do I even remember such unimportant details from so long ago? I think it has to do with my particular type of memory. I quite often remember the minutiae while forgetting more important stuff. Maybe that explains my grade point average in high school. Which I do remember.

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