I need some buttermilk. I was sitting here at the desk, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, the word “Buttermilk” started flashing through my brain. I love buttermilk, but now that I think of it, it’s probably been a couple of years since I’ve had a glass of that wonderful, tangy stuff. It’s just not something that you think about that often. You can’t use it on cereal or anything else much, so nobody keeps it in the fridge. However, though you may not believe it, I actually have a buttermilk story.
One summer evening, Johnny Luding and I had gone out to Bill and Charlene Skaer’s farm. They had two saddle horses that were getting barn sour and ornery and needed to be ridden. Their daughter, Dolores, our classmate, had gone away to college, and their son, Stanley, was still a student at Augusta High and as a result, the horses weren’t being ridden and were getting fat and sassy. Bill told us we could come out and ride whenever we wished.
Our first ride was on a Sunday morning. There had been an early morning shower, and the barnyard was muddy. John saddled up and climbed aboard and was just sitting there watching me. I saddled up and got aboard and thought I was ready to ride. All of a sudden, I felt that horse’s muscles bunch up and he started to pitch. I got myself ready for a wild ride, but, thanks to the mud, his hooves slipped and he started to go down. He caught himself and regained his balance. By this time, he was both mad and frustrated. He wanted to buck, but the slippery mud wouldn’t let him. He was so snorting mad he started making little stiff-legged jumps all around the barnyard. It must have looked funny because Johnny was laughing so hard he was about to bust a gut. The horse and I both survived that one with no damage.
Anyhow, let’s get back to the Saturday evening we were talking about earlier. John and I had a good ride and cleaned up the horses and put them away. We decided to head for town and get a hamburger. As we headed for the car, we ran into Randy, Bill’s farm hand. Randy was 21 and a drifter, staying for a few weeks at one farm before moving to the next. Bill said he was a hard worker, and John and I got along with him. Randy had finished his day and was cleaned up, and we invited him to go with us. We went to the Seventh Avenue Café and were looking forward to one of their good hamburgers. When the waitress came, we all ordered hamburgers, and Randy ordered a glass of buttermilk. John and I liked the stuff, so we ordered the same. The waitress returned with the three glasses, and our eyes were immediately drawn to Randy. His conduct was almost ritualistic. He started by very carefully sprinkling salt on the surface of the buttermilk. Then, he took his spoon and carefully stirred in the salt. Five times clockwise and then five turns counter-clockwise. Then, he held the spoon vertically in front of his mouth. He extended his tongue and gave one lick to the inside of the spoon. Then he rotated the spoon and gave one lick to the outside. Next, he rotated the handle and licked it where it joined the ladle. It was all done very precisely and you could see that he wasn’t going to waste a drop. I looked at John who was rolling his eyes, and I said, “Boy, Randy, you must really like your buttermilk.” Randy then explained to us that when he was growing up on the farm, his mother would go to the well-house and get ice-cold buttermilk for the whole family. It was a special treat and just thinking of it always made him feel good because it’s part of a memory of his mom and his family. That explained it well enough for us. I could really use a glass right now myself.