Tall, cylindrical towers called silos once dotted the
countryside, and when you saw a silo you could bet that dairy
cows were grazing nearby. Producing and selling milk was hard
work but a way for ambitious farmers to make a living.
Silage, also called ensilage, was great feed for milk cows. It
was made of chopped corn stalk, ear, leaves and all
packed into airtight silos when the stalks were still partly
green and the ear corn grains were matured but not dry.
There was enough moisture in the corn to have molded it if air
had reached it. However, in an airtight silo it heated and
fermented creating a feed which cows craved. It took the place of
green pasture grazing. They bawled when it was gone in spring.
Because cows liked it, they gave more milk than they would have
on just dry feed.
Silos were expensive and they had to be erected by
professionals. C.W. Furtney had loaned Dad and Mom money to buy
the farm and for other things. Dad explained to Furtney that the
best feed produced the most milk and that the silo would pay for
itself in time. With faith in the young couple’s judgment
the man approved another loan. They selected a 34-foot tall,
hollow-tile silo made by The Dickey Tile Co. in St. Louis. The
tiles were salt-glazed ceramic squares which locked together to
make the airtight cylinder, impervious to moisture inside and
That fall marked the first of an annual event called
silo-filling day. Mom worked days ahead, preparing a big feed for
about 30 people. Neighbor women helped serve the workmen at noon.
It was a "trade-work" arrangement where Dad helped
neighbors thresh grain and Mom helped women feed the threshing
crews. Kids had a great time at all of these gatherings, but I
was just 3 years old and don’t remember these early events.
That fall, Dad climbed the ladder several times, reached down
deep into the packed silage and brought up a sample to show Mom,
letting her smell its fragrance.
When it was ready to feed, he used a special wide pitchfork to
toss the feed down the ladder chute to a big, rolling cart on
barn floor level. He’d scatter it into the cows’
feeding places and add bran, cottonseed meal and a sprinkling of
salt for each animal. When he turned the cows in, each one went
to its own special stanchion to eat the mixture that Dad fed
according to each cow’s diet needs. Dad was never too sick
or too far from home to get there for the feeding.
The stanchion was made of wood with a wooden block that locked
the cow in until released. It also kept the greedy ones from
leaning far to one side and stealing a few bites with swipes of
their long tongues.
The silo was at the south end of an old gray barn that was to
be replaced. That plan changed when our house burned to the
ground in 1922 and Furtney and the bank both helped with loans.
Many people stood behind this hard-working young couple and their
Besides the farm and cows, Furtney helped with the home, new
barn, dairy trucks, milking machines and even a complete
pasteurization and refrigerating system. Mom and Dad had one of
Columbia’s leading dairies, serving Boone County Hospital
from its beginning. They reached a long-time goal in the
’30s when Jim and I graduated from the University of
Missouri in 1936 and had good jobs.
Is this a success story? No, I think it’s a love story.
And I weep as I write the last line: Mom became ill and died the
next year, before her 50th birthday. We buried her near Olivet
Church where she was volunteer pianist for 20 years.