Nora Ray (Ray Trilogy) - By Kelley Brown
Nora sat cross legged on her rock hugging her four year old daughter Lauren’s back to her chest. They both looked out over the valley below watching the dairy cattle grazing on the rich green grass of the meadow.
Her dream of becoming a medical doctor was still in the future. Yesterday she took the USMLE Step 2, United States Medical Licensing Examination. She felt like she passed the test, she would know in a few days. Her next step would be to intern. She was still a long ways from her goal of becoming a heart surgeon.
Nora brought Lauren to her thinking rock because she wanted her daughter to see the land where it all started, her beginning. The land had been in their family for five generations. A lump formed in her throat as she looked out over the valley. The land they loved and lost.
Seventeen year old Nora Ray lifted the last heavy five gallon bucket of milk to carry it into the room where the separator was kept to take the cream from the milk. Once the cream was separated, it could be sold for more money than as straight whole milk.
After completing her chores she slipped out to her favorite rock to rest for a few minutes. She lay there looking straight up at the azure blue sky rubbing the kinks from the small of her back.
She realized her mom would be cooking the evening meal by now. She needed to return to the house, she worried that she had been gone too long.
She walked the short distance along the edge of the cliff, by the crooked tree, then up the path through the oaks and hickory trees. After walking beyond the sumac, she came into the yard. On impulse she stopped to gather wild flowers along the edge of the yard. She grabbed a fruit jar off the cabinet, arranged the flowers, and filled it with water from the pump on the back porch.
"Mom, see what I brought you? Some wild flowers, aren't they pretty?" Nora called out as she set the bouquet on the table.
Her mom, Laura smiled and nodded. Nora’s heart warmed with pride to give her mom something to make her happy.
Her parents, John and Laura Ray owned a small dairy which etched out a meager living for their small family. Her Mom and Dad did all they could to make the dairy a profitable enterprise. There was no money to hire workers to help so Nora had to help in any way she could. She had a nine year old brother Danny but he couldn’t do much but get in the way most of the time. At least that was Nora’s take on the situation.
She loved her Dad but too many times lately when there was heavy lifting to be done he seemed not available. She wondered how much longer she and her mother would be able to handle the work. Fortunately, they had milking machines, but carrying those buckets full of milk really wore her out. Maybe her dad thought she would get stronger sooner or later, if she was, she hoped it would be soon.
The next afternoon, Nora slowly walked home from the school bus. She dreaded the unending milking, lugging the heavy milk canisters, separating the cream, and then packing the jugs back and forth to the cooler.
It seemed that the back breaking job was more than a five foot; one hundred pound girl should have to do. She also knew if she didn’t do her part; her mother would have to do almost all of it. Her father helped with the milking but he soon found something else he needed to do elsewhere.
Nora enjoyed taking care of the cows, like pouring the feed into the stalls. She watched as the cows came into their small milking barn. Each cow knew which stanchion was hers. The cows munched the feed as the milking machine was attached and to take their milk. When the cow was released from her stall she immediately left to go back to the holding pen.
Nora enjoyed routine. It allowed her the time to appreciate the process without having to study out what to do next. After the cows left, she shoveled out the muck, swept the floor, sprinkled lime on the floor to sanitize it then swept the lime into a neat pattern on the floor.
Laura was already in the milk room readying the milk to be separated in the creamer. After Nora got