Thursday, January 8, 2015

Making Butter

When we were kids, an after-school job at our neighbor's house was to churn butter as we watched Rin-Tin-Tin or Sea Hunt on the old black & white TV.  We were mesmerized.

In those days, TVs were a luxury item, and there were only two to four channels—that often broadcasted snow, depending upon where you lived. Reception was bad in the deep pocket valleys of Arroyo Road. The Stones lived on the Lagunitas side of Barranca Creek. I lived at the end of the canyon on the Forest Knolls side.

I remember watching Les Stone hitching himself up to the top of the tallest tree, lugging up an aluminum arial, and armloads of copper wire. Elaborate arial setups laced to the tops of tall pines worked, until the next big storm. They were like weathervanes. Long flat arial lines from the top of the Douglas fir to the house had to be maintained. A crack in the plastic cable, during a storm, and the line would short out. No TV. Just loud snow. The sound of deep space hissing.

So it was pretty exciting to be able to even watch TV. Stephanie Stone and I were horse crazy so we were partial to Lassie Come Home and Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. Rin-Tin-Tin was OK, because he looked like Ky-dog the German Shepherd—even if there were no horses.

One afternoon, it was my turn to churn the butter. I churned and tumped and churned until it felt like my arms were going to fall off. I churned my way through Rin-Tin-Tin to the 6 O'Clock News. My aching muscles were afire.

Still no butter. When I peeked into the churn, it was clotted, like snow on the TV. A loud thundercrack overhead. Lightning arced and struck the arial. Buckets of rain. In this way I found out that butter won't churn during a thunderstorm. It came down to science. Much more mesmerizing than the TV.

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