Milking a Cow Was Udderly Unpleasant
Photo by Andy Harris
By Elijah Walker
Well-Read, Well-Spoken, Well-Traveled, Well-Dressed, Well-Balanced
A true Man of Morehouse knows that he must quickly become acquainted with the ever-present “Five Wells.” These standards for manhood are representative of what is expected of a Morehouse Man. In applying for the Morehouse Pan-African Global Experience II (MPAGE II) Belize program, I was attempting to solidify myself as a well-traveled man. This means not only visiting new places but being humble enough to lend yourself to the cultures of the communities you visit.
Little did I know, the desire to be well-traveled would lead to me experiencing the agrarian lifestyle and culture of the Belizean Mennonites.
Upon arriving at Spanish Lookout, a Mennonite farming community in central Belize, the MPAGE II group and I were (un)welcomed by the granddaughter of the founder of the town. She and her family were cordial yet restrained as they shared with us a brief and sterile version of their history. It is important to emphasize the feeling of disingenuous formality during this meeting, as it persisted throughout our time with this community.
After our introductory meetings and a quick lunch at the Mennonite-owned “Western Dairy” restaurant, we headed to tour a Mennonite dairy farm. We met the hogs and the goats and the dairy cows and were introduced to Mennonite methods of production. Toward the end of the tour, at the request of MPAGE II student Jordan Coney, we received the opportunity to milk a dairy cow. A child-like exuberance broke through any apprehension I initially felt upon our reception, and I knew I had to give milking a try.
A young farmer escorted the heifer out of her pen and brought her in front of a feeding bowl to calm her nerves. He then placed a shiny metal bucket under her udders, all while maintaining a firm grip on the guiding ropes. Another farmer gave a detailed explanation of the grip-and-pull method of releasing the milk, but nothing could have prepared me for experiencing this reality first-hand.
I placed my ungloved hands around the udder. It was warm and dense, and slightly tacky to the touch. Admittedly, I immediately wanted to withdraw my hand, but I told myself not to miss out on the opportunity of a new experience. I formed my hand in the proper position and gave a good tug.
Nothing came out. I paused and tried again, and again; nothing came out. I then readjusted my hand placement and tried a gentler approach. Thin streams of milk began to shoot out and meet the bucket with a ting. I was milking a cow!
I had finally accomplished this lifelong curiosity, just to discover that it was extremely unpleasant. I was not a fan of the dampness of the udder or how firm it felt against my hand.
“I’m not enjoying this,” I heard myself saying on video, and I do not plan to milk a cow again any time soon.
However, after stepping tremendously far outside of my comfort zone to experience more of this Mennonite culture, no one can ever say that Elijah Walker is not a well-traveled man. If this is the beginning of my time as a well-traveled man, we’ll see where the rest of the Wells get me.