Leadership and Milking the Cow

By | August 2, 2019

[August 2, 2019] Junior leaders quickly learn valuable lessons when put to the test. One of the first things they learn is to be ready when called upon; Boy Scouts call this “being prepared.” I learned it at 12 years of age when I got a job milking cows at a neighbor’s house, and I wasn’t ready.

We lived in the “country,” a rural part of the state of Louisiana, where even the roads were mostly hard-packed dirt and electricity and running water had become available only the last decade. The kids were tough; not by inner-city standards but through living a hard life that required taking care of farm animals, bringing in money to help the family, learning in school, going to church on Wednesdays and Sundays, and doing those things father said needed doing.

It was expected that young kids were ready to take their place in the family by showing they could do chores and lead younger children in the skills of life. Girls began babysitting early, and boys took outside jobs that had to be done; all that required physical stamina, smarts, and a sunny disposition. Little did I know that our neighbor, Mr. Jacob Simons, would be the very person that understood this and helped a little boy … me.

I’m not so sure Mr. Simons needed a young boy to hand milk his cow. He gave me the job anyway. That’s the way it was when hands-on training was the way things were done. It helped that all three of his sons were also part of taking care of the household and, Jerry, my good friend had the same job. We team-milked the cow. If you never hand milked a cow, take my word for it, it’s a difficult job.1

We were paid 50 cents for about two hours of work that including prepping the cow by calming her, leading her to a milking area, cleaning her tits and the bucket, milking her without upsetting her, doing another clean-up, and taking the milk to a special container with a lid. Any error would mean the milk was unusable and a terrible waste of a valuable commodity. It taught me to pay attention to what I was told and to stay focused on the job. It also taught me about value. The job was seven days a week.

I liked Mr. Simons and his family. His wife gave me some apple pie once. He had a big family and worked hard to support them. I never realized what a sacrifice it was for him and great trust to hire me to milk his cow. I’m eternally grateful and humble for what he did.2 Today, I am a better person for it.


  1. https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/a-brief-history-of-milking-cows-by-hand-zbcz1407
  2. Earlier this year, I wrote a two-part series on 13 Real Rules for Leaders. Today’s article reinforces those “rules.” You can read them here and here.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “Leadership and Milking the Cow

  1. Ed Berkmeister

    I really enjoyed this article, Gen. Satterfield. It brought back some old but wonderful memories and the article delivered a strong message about hard work, focus, and consistency.

    1. Jung Hoon Kim

      Leadership is about standing out in the crowd even if it means hard work.

  2. Bryan Lee

    Thank you for another educational and entertaining article on a subject of truly great importance: responsibility.

  3. Danny Burkholder

    The secret to life (not really a secret) is to shoulder as much responsibility that you can reasonably handle. That way, at the end of the day, you can be satisfied that you did your best and it was worth something valuable to you, your family, and community. Just making yourself a better person and being productive (this includes moms raising kids) is contributing to the well being of everyone.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Wow, great comment Danny. Responsibility is what we often DISCOURAGE in young kids. We teach them to avoid responsibility and then send them off to college where they turn into snowflakes. Or did we make the snowflakes to begin with?

    2. José Luis Rodriguez

      I think that Gen. Satterfield quoted something like that from Psychology professor Jordan Peterson.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Great blog post today, Gen Satterfield. I especially liked it that you had to “work” every day of the week. People don’t understand fully what responsibility is about and when you have animals, there is no “holiday” or “time off.” Reminds me of a commercial that shows the same thing. Can’t remember more about it but it shows a kid whose mother supposedly wants a day off and the camera pans to a 2-year-old. Mothers don’t take the day off.

      1. Harry B. Donner

        There were several of these. Very effective message. I don’t know why they took them off the air.

        1. Mr. T.J. Asper

          Yeah, I enjoyed them. There is something deeper in these commercials and that is why, I believe, so many people liked them.

  5. Georgie M.

    Loved today’s article. Reading about your times as a young boy brings back memories and me and my brother. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield for rekindling the old memories.

    1. Big Al

      Those days are gone. Now is the era of video games, sex ed, and everyone getting a participation trophy. In my day, even the winners didn’t get a trophy; they just had bragging rights.

      1. Greg Heyman

        And the losing teams couldn’t wait to take you on next season. 🙂 Competition is so great.

  6. Kenny Foster

    I got a big chuckle out of today’s story. Thanks for making my morning.

  7. Eva Easterbrook

    Interesting job you had there. Too bad the farmer didn’t have a daughter about your age. Then it would really have been worth the time spent there.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      That would have been a big benefit. But I don’t think there are many kids today that would even think about hand milking a cow (they don’t know how) and probably would complain that it “stinks” and is too “dirty.” Are young kids today weak, privileged, or stupid? Maybe all three.

  8. Army Captain

    You picked cotton, shoveled shit, and milked cows. What a great time (sarcasm) you must have had as a kid?

    1. JT Patterson

      I was thinking the same thing, plus he stocked shelves, delivered newspapers, sold fireworks, and probably “robbed banks” (just kidding on the last one). 🙂

      1. Lynn Pitts

        I would surmise that young boys today spend a lot more time indoors and do far fewer jobs that pay money. Their parents generally treat them as something very special (which they are but don’t tell them that). That is why so many are spoiled. Oh, and many are only children which means they don’t learn basic skills like sharing. Go figure.

      2. The Kid 1945

        I looked those up and found them to be very entertaining. Thanks JT.

    2. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      I too milked cows and learned that there are better ways to make a dollar. While I fully respect dairy farmers, I wouldn’t want the job.

    3. Len Jakosky

      Army Captain, I wouldn’t take this as sarcasm. I’m sure he did have a great time and loved it too. Just because a job is hard, doesn’t make it unlikable. Just a thought.

      1. Max Foster

        Good point, Len. I agree. Also, I would think this creates the greatest satisfaction (as distinguished from happiness).

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