The Dairy Farm Adventures: Date Night Disaster

Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: Date Night Disaster

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

Matthew and I have learned to survive the tumultuous times of managing a dairy farm and parenting three energetic children by creating a weekly date night in the barn.  A typical “date night” begins when Matthew and I head to the barn at 5:00 for the evening shift to milk eighty-five cows.  Meanwhile, our babysitter, Jillian, has supper with the children, gives them a bath, and puts them to bed after story time.    By 7:30, we're in the house having breakfast for supper with omelets and toast as our main course.  With the children snuggled in their beds, the house is blissfully quiet as we relish our meal and time alone.

Recently, Matthew and I planned a Friday night to have child coverage AND cow coverage so we could go out to dinner and catch the latest release at the Houlton Temple Theater.  Knowing we had planned a night out on the town gave us something to look forward to all week. 

On Friday morning, our three-year-old son, Wyatt, developed a deep barking cough that brought tears to his eyes.  Throughout the morning hours, his cough dissipated and his temperature remained normal.  However, thirty minutes into his nap time, he woke up coughing and having a difficult time catching his breath.   Unsettled by the harsh sounding cough and ragged breathing, I made a doctor's appointment for 3:30 that afternoon. 

The doctor gave Wyatt a thorough examination and explained Wyatt had the croup, a nasty virus that needed time to run its course.  At this time his oxygen levels and body temperature were normal.  Relieved Wyatt didn't have pneumonia or other mysterious ailment, we headed home. 

We arrived home just after 5:00 p.m., about the same time Jillian came so Matthew and I could  have our date night.  While I talked with Jillian about our plans, Wyatt snuggled with his father in the big blue chair.  Before leaving, Matthew commented, “Boy, Wyatt feels hot.  You'd better take his temperature.”  Much to our chagrin, the thermometer read 100.   Before leaving, I gave him some  Tylenol and told Jillian to call us if his temperature continued to rise.

Running behind schedule, Matthew and I scurried out the door and jumped into the pickup.  When I turned the key in the ignition, the truck wouldn't start.  I'd owned the GMC for over ten years, and it never failed to fire up until this particular night.  After several attempts of boosting the battery, Luke, one of our trustworthy milkers for the night, gave us a ride to Benn's Auto where Matthew's pickup was parked waiting for a tune-up.  At this point, I came close to throwing my hands in the air and giving up.  Accustomed to persevering through obstacles from living on a dairy farm, we stubbornly forged onward to Houlton.   

We arrived at Pizza Hut just after 6:00, breathless but still determined to salvage what was left of a rare night out on the town without children.  I'd already decided we were going to have our meal without rushing and forgo seeing a movie.  Concerned about Wyatt, Matthew readily agreed.  At 6:40, Jillian called to tell us Wyatt's temperature had risen to 103.  We quickly paid our bill, stopped at Rite Aid to stock up on Motrin and Tylenol and raced home.  Shortly after 7:00 and three miles from home, Luke called to inform Matthew the motor attached to the milk pump had burned to a crisp. Without a working motor, the cows could not be milked.    Matthew called Tommy, a fellow dairy farmer, and asked if he could borrow a spare motor.  Minutes later we pulled into Tommy's driveway.   Without complaint, Tommy ventured to his repair shop and gave Matthew his spare motor.  Hopeful the motor would fit, we sped home. 

When we entered the house, Wyatt staggered out his bedroom door, barking like a seal, crying and wheezing.  His face was fiery red, and when I scooped him up to comfort him, his body radiated heat.  While I rocked Wyatt in the big blue chair trying to calm him enough so he could breathe comfortably, Matthew called the local Health Clinic and described Wyatt's symptoms to the health care provider on duty.  We needed assurance our little guy was going to be all right.  With shaking hands, I bundled him up and drove to the clinic while Matthew headed to the barn to solve the mechanical trouble. 

At 8:15, I carried Wyatt into the clinic.  Since Wyatt was a new patient, the receptionist passed  me a clipboard with several pages of paper work to complete.  Trying to hold Wyatt with one arm and fill in the blanks with the other,  my “Mama Bear” instincts suddenly took over.  Not caring what anyone thought about me just then, I exclaimed, “Look, can someone please see my son!  I gave you my insurance card.  You will be paid.  Could I please do this later!”   

Just as I finished my last sentence, the door swung open and the health professional on duty, said, “You come right in.  We'll do things a little differently this time.”  Tears of relief slid down my cheeks as I thanked her and followed her to the examination room.

After taking Wyatt's vital signs, the doctor assured me he would be just fine.  She told me her  son endured more than one bout of the croup growing up.  She explained the croup typically reared its ugly head in the evening, resulting in a deep barking cough and feverish temperatures.  The virus would run its course in a couple of days, and it would then be over.  Having never witnessed the croup with my two older children, I trusted her judgment and felt reassured Wyatt would be okay. 

That night, Wyatt slept by my side so I could console him when he woke up coughing and gasping for breath.  While I lay awake listening to Wyatt breathe, Matthew worked through the night trying to fix the motor.  Tommy's motor didn't fit, so Matthew robbed a motor off of the hay conveyor and jimmy rigged it so he could finish milking the remaining fifty-three cows with milk-swollen udders.  Milking four at a time, all the cows were milked by the early morning hours.

The next morning, Matthew and I felt like we'd emerged from the rubble of a train wreck and were thrilled to still be standing.  In the end, Wyatt conquered the croup in 48 hours; Lilly's dairy farm gave us a perfectly matched motor to use while we ordered a replacement, and Benn's Auto replaced the fuel pump in my truck.  Though our “date night” was a disaster, I'm thankful for the many gracious people who helped us throughout the night; our stoic babysitter who remained calm when things became rough, fellow dairy farmers who didn't hesitate to let us borrow their equipment in an emergency, our two milkers on duty who worked with Matthew past midnight, and the health care professionals who shared their knowledge with a confidence that eased our minds.  Not once did we feel alone.

One month later we made a second attempt to have a date night.  Our evening began at Rite Aid receiving our flu shots and ended with shared belly laughs watching Parental Guidance at the theater. 

Mission accomplished.           

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