He sat on the side of the bed an' reached for his sock, slipped them on an' rose to put on his dungarees an' work shirt that hung on the ancient ladder back chair sittin' by the bed. He moved slow, not wantin' to wake Aunt Del. He stopped to hear her slow, steady breathin' and knew she still slept on. No sense in them both wakin' this early. Arthur would keep plenty of company, "good ol' Arthur-itis" he chuckled to himself. "You sure did wake me early. You an' that storm movin' across the ridges yonder." he thought.
Even as he dressed he could see flashes of lightnin' high on the mountain in the distance. He was hopin' to get the milkin' done before the thunder got too bad. His ol' milk cow Sue got cranky durin' storms an might either kick him or the bucket over. 'Course, folks used to say a cow's milk would sour if a feller milked durin' a storm. Uncle Billy didn't take no truck to them ol' wive's tales.
Uncle Billy eased toward the back door real quiet like. Aunt Del made him keep his work boots by the back door. His son Will had bought him some real fine leather slippers to wear indoors, but he was content with just his monkey socks if he couldn't wear his boots. The leather slippes sat under the bed, side by side. If Will ever came to visit he would slip them on an' brag on them heartily an' then slide them back under the bed when Will left.
"Billy, Billy are you up already" Del asked softly. Though no one else was in the ol' cabin she still whispered in the early mornin'.
"Yes, Darlin'. Storms a'comin'. I need to get ol' Sue milked." he answered.
"Get what eggs is our there too. That way I won't have to go out in the rain. You want me to start fixin' breakfast early?"
"Nah." he said, "Stay right there in that bed for a while. I'll milk an gather the eggs. Them hens won't be out in the yard this mornin' either. I'll feed them in the hen house. I reckon their layin' might be off if'n it storms hard."
"Yes, I'd imagine so. You sure you don't want me to cook you some breakfast now?"
"Lands no, Sweet Darlin'. I'd get my belly full an' never get the milkin' done. You jest lay there an' get a little shut eye. I'm thinkin' I'll brush ol' Joe this mornin'. He'll be wantin' out an' I don't want him a'boltin' when it commences to thunderin'."
"Alright, Billy. Maybe just for a few more minutes. I wouldn't mind dozin' a bit longer." She said as she laid back onto her feather pillow. "Don't let that dang mule kick you, you hear me?"
"Yes mam." he chuckled. Joe was a little ornery an' didn't like thunder one bit. He kicked through his stall more than once durin' storms.
Uncle Billy worried about Aunt Del right smart these days. She was awful frail an' just didn't bounce back when she was sick. "I'll be back in later. I expect I'll bring the milk in in a bit an' then back to feed the chickens an' brush Joe."
He sat down to put his boots on an' tie them up tight. He called Ol' Dog who was layin' by Uncle Billy's easy chair. Ol' Dog had been watchin' an' waitin' for that call. His ol' tail started thumpin' the floor an' he stood up an' bounced over to the door. Ol' Dog would get breakfast when Uncle Billy did. While Uncle Billy milked an' saw to his other chores,
Ol' Dog would make his rounds, inspectin' the farm for any sign of foxes, coons or possums. If he sniffed up trouble he might disappear for most of the mornin', wanderin' back when he finally gave up his hunt.
When the door opened Ol' Dog ran out to the barn, Uncle Billy followed a good but slower, milk bucket in hand. Sue heard him as he headed for the barn an' let out a low beller, lettin' him know she had been waitin' what must seem like forever to a milk cow.
"Hold on Sue. I'm a'comin'. I'm a'comin'. He grinned as he walked into the barn, opened her stall an' let her out to the center of the barn. She walked over too the manger on the side wall an' waited as he filled it with silage. She started eatin' slowly an' turned her head to watch as Uncle Billy picked up his milk stool an' positioned it an' the milk bucket. He had filled another bucket with water an' carefully washed Sue's udder before he started to milk. With practiced care he leaned his head onto Sue's side an' began to fill the bucket. Warm streams of creamy milk squirted into the bucket. The smell of the barn, warm milk an' ol' Sue warmed his heart.
Sue was part Jersey an' had lots of cream in her milk. Aunt Del made butter several times a week an' had Uncle Billy take her around to sell her butter up an' down several hollers. She would churn it an' then mold it in one of her butter molds. Hard to believe but some folks didn't milk anymore an' even bought that nasty white margarine that had to be squished around with the yellow colorin' to get it to even look like butter. Give him real butter any day.
He took the bucket of milk inside an' sat it on the side table. Del was still sleepin' as he went back out, closin' the door quietly. He filled a pan with cracked corn which he scattered on the ground in the hen house. The hens were waitin' for him as he stepped in. He gathered the eggs, placin' each in the empty pan. He sat the pan an' eggs on a table an grabbed his curry comb as he walked over to Joe's stall.
He stopped to pull off part of a bale of hay that he put in the other manger on the wall opposite from Sue who was still slowly eatin' her silage. He opened Joe's stall an' Joe walked out an' over to his manger to begin eatin' his hay. Uncle Billy slipped his hand through the curry comb and patted Joe on the side.
As he an' the mule stood side by side, Uncle Billy saw the thunderhead movin' toward his place, pushin' up the holler pretty fast now. The sky lit up several times an' the thunder rolled an' echoed up an' down the holler. Rain hit the tim roof all at once. Man an' mule had turned their heads to see the lightnin' an' see the rain head toward them. Joe finally turned back to his feed an Uncle Billy turned to his task.
"Mornin' to you too, Lord. This here is Billy Gilbert. I've got a few folks on my mind this mornin'. Thought I might lift 'em up to y'all an ask for a couple blessin's for 'em."