Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ode to the Milkman

By: L.A. Kohl
March 19, 2006
(published in the April 5, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")

Here at our rural home, we have a deep appreciation for certain things from bygone days; whether it’s an extremely well-built piece of furniture that is over 100 years old…or a way of life reminiscent of a time long past, when life was a little simpler and slower paced. Let’s say for instance, the milkman.
My grandfather, who would have been 94 years old in January, was a milkman in Denver, CO many years ago. He liked to tell stories about his years delivering milk, first by horse and cart, and then eventually by truck.

But this isn’t about my grandpa…this is about our milkman.

Yes – we had a modern day milkman. For several years, Sam Stroupe drove up our driveway once a week, in his aged, diesel delivery vans, to bring our week’s supply of fresh-from-the-farm, whole milk. He met my grandfather once, a couple of years ago when he delivered our milk and my grandpa happened to be visiting us. I knew Sam had many more customers waiting for their milk, but he patiently stood, listened and smiled while an old gentleman re-lived some of his “glory” days as a milkman.

Occasionally Sam would rearrange his routes and show up on a different day at a different time; but he always showed up. Through holidays, ice covered roads, and simmering heat – you could always count on the weekly visit from “Sam the milkman." And you could always bet that he would greet you with a smile and ask how everyone was doing this week. If we didn’t happen to be at home – we’d leave the door unlocked for him, or leave him a key so he could come in and put the milk in the refrigerator for us. He became a part of this routine we call “life”. It may have been a small part – but it was a valued part.

That’s why I was so surprised one late Friday night to walk in our door and find our empty milk jars still sitting on the table, where I usually left them for Sam to pick up when he brought the week’s milk. I opened up the refrigerator, to see if by chance he had brought the milk and just forgotten the jars…and there was the note.

My heart sank as I read about how a tornado had assaulted his farm south of Armstrong on that stormy Sunday in March. It not only destroyed his home, but his farm buildings as well – and thus, his livelihood. He gave thanks to God for keeping his family unharmed through it all, and humbly admitted that he was getting too old to think about rebuilding. He would be looking for another job, and we would no longer have a milkman.

I know there are lots of folks, from Clark to Columbia, from Fayette to Midway, and many places in between, that will miss Sam the milkman. He not only provided a wonderfully rare service to his customers – he was a link to a quickly disappearing, past way of life.

We’ll miss Sam…his smile, his cheerful outlook, and his fresh milk and cream. Moreover, we’ll miss the convenience and nostalgia of having a milkman, as he becomes another irreplaceable part of the past.

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