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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Singing Milkman

Air Date: Week of

Reporter Jyl Hoyt sends us an audio postcard featuring Ormand Smith, who's dairy still delivers milk and ice cream to homes in southern Idaho - for a song.


CURWOOD: A way of life that's disappeared in many parts of America lives on in southern Idaho. Smith's Dairy started bottling and delivering milk to homes back in 1944.

(A large door opens)

CURWOOD: You could smell the butterfat when you enter Smith's Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street in the town of Buhl along the Snake River. In the back of the shop is the bottling plant. Step through the swinging doors and you can see the glass bottles on their way to the pasteurizing machines. You'll also get a history lesson from Ormand Smith.

SMITH: I still know all the names of all the dogs of the customers and the kids, and we're now delivering to five generations of kids. We actually deliver to the homes.

(Instruments clank)

CURWOOD: Like his father and grandfather before him, Ormand Smith bottles and delivers 500 gallons of milk each day to residents of this farming community. But Ormand Smith does one thing his forebears didn't. He sings while he works.

SMITH: Needless to say, it keeps you busy. At 200 gallons an hour, well that means you have to pick up 400 half-gallon bottles in an hour's time. So man, you have to stand here and really work fast to keep things (Singing) rollin', rollin', rollin', keep that milkin' rollin', rawhide! And I like to sing, too, at the same time, so I can keep rhythm with all the machinery. But I enjoy it. We also make our own homemade ice cream here. I love to sell (Ululates) Oreo cookie! I sell Oreo cookie ice cream and bubble gum and White House cherry, coconut, and pineapple. And then of course the standbys, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, maple nut, all of these different flavors. So it keeps our hands full, but the main thing we've done all of our life, all the other dairies have quit, is home delivery. We still take the milk to the homes, and if a person wants us to put it in the refrigerator we'll put it in the refrigerator. I used to joke and say we would make the beds and do the dishes when we go through, but that's sort of maybe telling a little tale. Maybe we don't do that exactly.

(Clanking sounds)

SMITH: You never get rich but you've got a thousand friends. Everybody in Buhl, I know everybody in Buhl and most of the surrounding towns, and they all wave at you and you wave back. And this is what is so good about, there's a lot more to life than money. Oh, we've got to go outside and listen to my bullhorn. I've got to show you ... we've got to go out here and listen to what everybody hears in Buhl, Wendell, Fighter Castle, Ford, and Hagerman, Twin Falls [phonetic spelling]. They hear my bullhorn coming down the road. But this is what everybody hears. (Blows on bullhorn) See, that way they know that Bessie the Hereford's coming down the road! (Blows on bullhorn, sings) In the morning she gave fast rides. In the nighttime she came homogenized. Oh Bessie, my heifer, let's clean the wall of cows. See, they hear that and then they know, Smith's Dairy's coming down the road! (Laughs) We're the last of a dying breed, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

CURWOOD: Jyl Hoyt produced our audio snapshot of Ormand Smith, the singing milkman of Buhl, Idaho.



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