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OPINION | PUTTHOFF Rural mail service sometimes included tasty delivery

by Flip Putthoff | April 27, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Factory-baked apple pie and store-bought milk don't compare with home-baked or milk straight from the cow. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

A cold glass of milk is mighty tasty when it comes straight from the cow and served with a slice of warm apple pie.

Those were two pleasures of rural Ozarks life many moons ago when my buddy Hog Ears and I lived in our backwoods bachelor cabin miles from the pavement on a thousand acres of paradise.

A creek flowed clear as tap water past the wooden front porch swing. Our nearest neighbor lived a mile away. If a car drove by, you looked to see who it was.

Some days the only vehicle was a four-wheel-drive International Scout driven by our rural mail gal, Brenda. Each day, she'd bounce along our bumpy dirt road bringing our mail and sometimes a nice surprise.

Brenda loved to cook and, once a month or so, she'd leave a home-baked apple pie in our mailbox, still warm from the oven. It was "Oh happy day" for Hog Ears and me when one of Brenda's fragrant apple pies with a perfect lattice crust filled our mailbox.

We'd generally eat the whole pie that day. Then we'd put Brenda's empty pie pan back in our mailbox with a nice note of thanks. If we were home, we'd meet her at the mailbox, pie pan in hand, falling all over ourselves, thanking her.

Once, out at the mailbox, I mentioned how much we loved washing down a slice of her apple pie with a cold glass of milk. Brenda told us her family got fresh milk right from the cow up the road at Mrs. Lowry's place. We could, too, Brenda said.

Mrs. Lowry and her husband, Mr. Lowry, ran a few dairy cows on their farm up on the paved road not far from our cabin. They'd milk their cows by hand, and Mrs. Lowry sold milk right from her refrigerator there on the farm.

It wasn't long before Hog Ears and I were regular customers. We'd drive up to their farm in Hog Ears' 1968 Chevy Suburban, blue in color and accented with rust streaks. Mrs. Lowry would show up at the front door always wearing a flowery apron.

We'd go inside and have a seat while she went to the kitchen. Out she'd come toting a one-gallon glass jar of fresh milk with about 2 inches of cream floating on top. Friends and neighbors, this wasn't your grocery-store skim milk.

We'd sit and visit a spell because, after awhile, Mrs. Lowry got to be like a second mom. She'd ask how we were doing, how things were going down at the cabin. Had we cut enough firewood for the winter, things like that. Now and then, she'd bake cookies and give Hog Ears and me some to take home with our milk.

After one visit, Hog Ears and I scraped the cream off a full jar of milk to make butter. We'd read in one of the Firefox books, which were all the rage back then, how to make butter by putting cream in a jar and shaking it to high heaven until it was butter.

We shook that jar for hours, and it became butter, all right, but it tasted terrible -- so much for our great back-to-the-land butter experiment!

That backwoods cabin is long gone now, but the kindness of Brenda and Mrs. Lowry will never be forgotten.

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