Roger Bromley is a dairy farmer, been so all his life. Roger’s father, Hugh, is a dairy farmer, been so all his life. They farm together, done so all of Roger’s life. Roger’s grandfather, Delos, was a dairy farmer, was so all his life. Roger’s great-grandfather, Martin, was a dairy farmer, was so all his life. Delos farmed with Martin; Hugh farmed with Delos. All in all, four lifetimes, 162 years, have been spent milking cows and doing chores, being dairy farmers, on one, old 628-acre hill farm in Danby, Vermont.
Not much has changed over the four generations of Bromley farmers. Tractors have replaced horses, automatic milkers have replaced hand milking and every other day a milk truck now comes up to the farm to get the milk but the cows still go out to pasture every decent day, the barn still stands where it always has and the summer grass still grows thigh high.
“I like my independence,” Roger says, “being my own boss and my own worst employee. I like having plenty to do and not enough time to do it and knowing that it will somehow all get done. But most of all I like the variety. Yeah, Trish and I milk cows everyday, twice a day the whole year through but even milking’s not the same every day. How could it be when your 100 business partners aren’t any smarter than that old stump over there?”
“But who’s the fool, them or me?” Roger says taking off his grimy hat and scratching his sweaty head. “I know every day is going to be different. Every day there’s a problem or ten to solve, or at least try to solve, keeps me busy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but what is the worst that could happen?” He looks around and returns with an evil twinkle, snickering. “Maybe someday I’ll wake up and all these cows will be gone! Wouldn’t that be something?” The truth is he wouldn’t know what to do…once he had danced a short jig and whooped and hollered for a bit.
“I just don’t know what else I’d want to do, not trained to do anything, really. Milking’s the easy part. I mostly fix things- flat tires, broken fences, mower blades, silage unloaders, culverts, tractors- there’s really not much around here that doesn’t need some fixing and that includes me! I do a little work, eat a good meal, go to sleep and start a new day. Doesn’t sound so bad and I’m not in an office all cramped up. Couldn’t do that, not for me.”
When it comes down to it, Roger is and forever will be a farmer. He never really had any choice, it’s something that chose him.
“Everything I need is here,” Roger says looking past the old barn and over the barnyard full of cows to the pastures slipping down to the forest edge. “I’m happy right here. It’s just me and the wind and the rain and them cows over there. Every one of them is plotting now on how to do something to screw things up and every one of them eventually will. But I’m just stubborn enough to stick around and see what happens. And since I’m standing here I might as well get to milking. Wanna help?”