I must have been nearly grown when Mother began buying butter at the store.
Today, each time I peel the paper from a store-bought stick, the image of a beautifully formed lump of homemade butter flashes across my mind.
Grandma Trew used a glass bowl from a Quaker Oats special offer to mold her freshly churned butter. Wooden butter molds left a flower imprinted in the surface, which made her butter almost too pretty to slice.
Butter was discovered when goatskins of milk, which were carried on the backs of camels across the desert, turned into butter. From 1790 to 1893, patent records show 2,440 devices were invented to churn cream into butter, which shows that making butter has always been important.
There were many ways to make butter. I'm told my great-grandma Mathews held a nursing baby with her right arm while churning butter with her left hand by rocking a glass jar of cream across her leg. Grandma Trew, on the other hand, made butter with an upright crock churn, using a wooden dasher that she worked up and down. My mother and family also cranked a Daisy churn that activated a paddle inside a large glass jar. A neighbor lady churned butter by turning her breadboard upside down and using the surface to work the water out of the butter with a wooden paddle.
Most families can recall a few other churn stories. Almost every object imaginable has been fished out of a churn sometime or another: rocks, potatoes, marbles and even yo-yos. In fact, my father received his first hard spanking when Grandma fished a sputtering, meowing kitten from her crock churn.
Romance sparked at times when young churners of the opposite gender shared the chore. Even rebellion and punishment occurred when young churners evaded the call to work.
The never-ending drudgery of milking cows, separating milk and churning butter was forgotten once the fresh milk, buttermilk and butter were placed into the tin cooling trough that sat in the kitchen window. The crocks were covered in white dishcloths, which draped down into the water trough, catching the cool breeze coming through the open window.
From the lactic “horn of plenty,” we could enjoy a fresh glass of sweet milk or a glass of Grandma Trew Mix, that with either cornbread crumbled inside or a generous slice of golden butter smeared across a biscuit or homemade light bread, and we were in heaven.
I'm sure these memories were enhanced by the “hungries” of a growing boy whose appetite never diminished. In retrospect, I realize the greatest treasure of all was the stories we told while taking turns “dancing the dasher” or “twisting the crank” when we made fresh butter. FC
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.