Veteran dairywoman, Vera Harrington, pauses in her round of feeding baby calves,
on Tuesday afternoon, as she reflects on the 60 years she's been involved in the
Hopkins County dairy business.
Veteran Dairywoman "Hangs It Up"
After 60 years in the Dairy Business
by: Bobby McDonald
The current and original Harrington Dairy Farm, in the Reilly Springs Community, will be vacant, after Thursday, when
Vera sells her milking and dry cows.
Reilly Springs, Texas..........."It's been very, very, good to us!" expressed veteran Hopkins County dairywoman, Vera Harrington, as she reflects on being in the dairy industry for the past 60 years. "However, when you look at the prospects of it being at least May of next year, before I could bale any more hay, and the thought of trying to make it until then on purchased hay, it's silly to throw good money after bad!"
"As the song says, you've got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em," continued Harrington. "If I was much, much younger, I might look at it different! And, no, this wasn't really the way I had always 'pictured' how I would end my career, after suffering through an extensive drought, but it just makes sense to sell the milking and dry cows and then gradually sell all of my heifers."
Harrington revealed that "they'll be picking up my cows on Wednesday, and they'll sell on Thursday, at the local Dairy Sale!"
"If I was younger, raising a family, I'd probably look at it all different, but I know it's the right decision for me, at this time in my life," expressed Harrington. "And, yes, I'm going to miss the cows, and having the routine that I've 'about got figured-out by now," after 60 years. But, then it is also a 'relief' to know that God's showing me it's time to sell, too!"
"I might just sleep late for one morning!" relates Harrington. "But, I'll probably wake up at the same time, regardless!"
"My cows are eating purchased hay, and there is no grass, due to the drought," expressed Harrington. "So, it only makes
sense to sell the cows, and 'hang it up,' for someone younger to milk cows!"
Dreyfus Harrington and Vera Price married in 1951 and moved to property in the Reilly Springs Community, that he had already purchased. He had Jersey cows that he had bought and had Harlan Irvin milking for him. "We weren't getting any money out of having Harlan milk the cows, so we soon started building us a Grade-A barn," remembers Harrington. "Pete McDonald always told the story that he and Dreyfus were working on the house and barn, and that anytime they came to an exceptionally straight piece of lumber, Dreyfus would tell him to lay it back for the dairy barn and use one of lesser quality for the house!"
The Harringtons began milking in their own barn, in the fall of 1951. "We didn't even have a bathroom in the house, but had one in the barn!" remembers Vera. "When it came time to clean-up, we'd go out to the barn to bathe. Well, we'd sit on the porch of the house, and 'watch' for the other one, while we bathed. You guessed it, I was in the barn bathing, and a neighbor came up, and talked for what seemed like hours, as I waited 'shivering' in the dairy barn! That's when I told Dreyfus we had to do something about getting a bathroom for the house!"
Soon, the Harringtons began increasing their herd and at one time had five dairy farms located from Reilly Springs to Ridgeway, in Hopkins County. "I think about 800 milking cows was the most we ever had at one time!" relates Vera.
Vera always liked the cows and did more of the milking that Dreyfus did. "Dreyfus didn't have the patience that I did with those temperamental Jersey cows," relates Vera. "So, most of the time, I'd milk, while he did the outside work!"
Widowed in 1980, it was only natural that Vera would continue the operation. "I'd never known anything else!" expressed Vera. "So, I just kept on going! We reared two daughters, Mitzi and Mary, who each had their own turn in the milk barn and the hay fields, but we taught them how to work, and probably that they never, ever want to be in the dairy business! However, both daughters have told me how much they appreciated us teaching them how to work hard and save money!"
Vera Harrington, today, spends much of her time, when not in the dairy, visiting three granddaughters, who now live in Waxahachie. "I'm looking forward to being able to see the granddaughters, more, once the cows are gone!" expressed Vera. "And, they're planning on moving down here, next year, if everything works out. But, I don't think I can talk them, or their mother and aunt, into milking cows!"
Still on the job.....Harrington feeds some of her baby calves and laughs at some of the remembrances
of the past 60 years in the Hopkins County Dairy Business. "It's been very, very good to us!" states Harrington.
Vera Harrington was named Hopkins County Agriculturalist of the Year, in the 1980's, as well as Citizen of the Year, and Woman of the Year, by the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce, the only person to be named to all three awards. She was a charter member of the Feed and Forage Test Lab Board, that encouraged local producers to test the quality of their feed and forages, and has served on about every progressive board in Hopkins County agriculture. She's served on the State and National Farmer's Union Committees and the State and National Beef Council, as she went about making a difference in her community, state, and nation.
"When you get to think about 'calling it quits," you get to thinking about all of the good memories, and the people that you've shared the years with!" relates Harrington. "We couldn't have ever made it without good bankers at Alliance Bank, those that came out and worked on our equipment, those who sold us quality feed, and those that helped us run the operation, all of these years! We certainly didn't do it alone, but always tried to surround ourselves with people who could help make all of us a living!"
"And, yes, like any other business, 'we've had some lu-lu's' for help, as well!" laughs Vera. "There's been those that tore up equipment, 'fogot' to show up at milking time, and couldn't stay put, for long enough to draw a pay check! But, we've had some outstanding people helping us for the past 60 years too!"
When asked about what she'll do once she sells the cows, Harrington remarked. "I'll probably be headed to the doctor for knee replacement surgery from all that stooping in the barn, riding tractors, and bailing hay! But, it's been a great, great ride, and I wouldn't have spent it any other way! I'm thankful to the Good Lord for placing me here in this life, and looking out for me, each and every day! It's been great!"
No hay, no grass, and prospects of at least 6 or seven months until she could possibly bale any more hay, veteran
Hopkins County dairywoman, Vera Harrington, has decided to "hang it up!"