Opinion: Working the milk truck


Commentary by Ward Degler

I once worked on a milk truck. I was 12 years old, and five days a week, I got up at 5 a.m., dressed and waited at the curb to get picked up.

The truck was an aged pickup with a step in front of the rear fender and a wooden stake behind the cab that I could hold onto. I had a wire basket that could hold six one-quart bottles of milk.

When I started working there, the driver, a gruff and burly man named Fuzzy Tacket, would call out the order as we stopped in front of the houses. But within a few weeks, I memorized most of the orders.

I would load the basket with the bottles, run to the front porch, put the bottles down, pick up the empties and run back to the pickup which was already moving.

In the winter, Fuzzy opened the back window so I could stick my head in to keep warm.

At the end of the route, we would unload the empties at the creamery, wash them and then stack them next to the bottling machine. Later, I would unload the full bottles from the bottling machine, put them into cases and move them into the cooler. I did all of this for five $5 a week.

The creamery also had a freezer room that contained 300-pound blocks of ice. Fuzzy would take an ice pick and cut a block into 25-pound blocks twice a week. Three people on the route still used ice boxes, and Fuzzy would stop the pickup, grab a set of ice tongs from the back, pick up the block of ice and deliver it to the icebox in the house.

At one house, the woman insisted on wrapping the ice in newspaper so it would last longer, and Fuzzy waited patiently while she did this chore. Still, he would shake his head coming back to the pickup.

Years later, I returned to the town for a visit. The creamery was gone and a tire store filled the building. Someone told me that Fuzzy was in a nursing home.