“Hugh, I bought a new pair of farm boots today.”

“Oh, yeah, Whadcha get?”

“Oh, just a pair of rubber boots – barn boots – for mucking and the mud.”

“Like these?” he says pulling up his pant leg to show me a pair of old brown rubber boots he has probably had since the Great War.

“Sorta like those, but I didn’t buy mine in Paris during the war.” I say unable to resist the temptation to needle him about his old, old boots.

“You must mean World War I!” Hugh says with a laugh.

“But Hugh, even if yours were new mine would be different than yours.”

“They would?”

“Yes, mine are blue.”

I say this with considerable trepidation knowing that Hugh doesn’t embrace new things quickly especially if they are different from old things that have worked perfectly well for many, many years

“Blue? Is that what you said? Your boots are blue?!?”

I might as well be telling him that I have wings. In Hugh’s world when things work you don’t change them. If something wears out, you don’t throw them away, you just find something else it is now better suited for.

“Yes, dark blue with a red line around the tread. Is that okay?”

“Dark blue with a red? Those aren’t any good,” he says, his eyes twinkling with mischief. Then turning his head and spitting on the ground (it’s his visual exclamation point always placed at the beginning of important sentences) he says “Take the bastards back. Yes, sir, take the bastards back.”

I laugh, a bit nervously, uncertain how serious Hugh is being.

I didn’t take the bastards back. They were brand new and they were comfortable but I have boot trauma to this day. The last thing I want to do is embarrass Hugh when I am around the farm but I also don’t want to embarrass myself by looking like a farm yokel. These are the types of things I worried about when I first knew Hugh.

I still worry.

Just the other day Hugh noticed me wearing my blue boots with the red line around the tread as I walked by him on the way to the barn. In a voice loud enough for only me to hear he muttered, “Take the bastards back, yes sir, take the bastards back.” Then he turned and shuffled off, chuckling.

2 JUNE 05

“Bend down here and take a look. I’ll show you how this works.”

I had asked Roger how the automatic milker, called the claw, worked. It looks like a 4-legged octopus that attaches to the utter by suction with a central glass jar where I could see milk swirling around.

I bent over and peered under the cow at the claw in Roger’s hand.

“No, get closer, you need to get closer to really see this.”

So I get down on one knee and get my head almost under the cow, trying my best to please Roger with my enthusiasm. As I look at the utter Roger bends a teat and delivers a fine squirt of fresh milk at me, wetting my arms and shoulder. If it had been me I would’ve gotten my victim squarely in the face but Roger is too kind a person to do that so I just get a glancing blow of milk.

This must be the oldest dairy practical joke in the world. I am sure that old Epheus, the first farmer in Mesopotamia, B.C. pulled this trick on everyone he could and that it has been done everyday since by someone someplace in the world where ever dairy farmers roam. You can put my name on June 2, 2005 as the one who kept the streak alive on that day.