BND Magazine

June 15, 2014

Farm kids pitch in to help Dad

Austin Hilmes' first word was "get."

The toddler sat in a swing attached to the milking parlor ceiling as he watched his parents, Corey and Tina, milk cows.

"When they were done," said Tina, 33. "Corey would open the gate and, to get them to go, he'd say, 'Get, get, get.'"

The Hilmeses have a dairy farm near Breese. Corey and a helping hand milk 300 cows twice a day. He also farms a couple hundred acres of grain.

Tina works at Gateway Farm Service in Nashville, and takes care of Austin, now 7, and his younger siblings, blond-haired Addison, 5, little brother Landon, 2, and the baby, Lillian Jean, 5 months.

Helping Dad is a treat.

Corey, 34, works a fast 15-hour day, but slows down late in the afternoon when the older three want to help feed the 17 calves.

The kids follow him inside the milkhouse where he uses a giant whisk to mix dry milk replacer with water, just like baby formula.

"I want to stir it up, Daddy," said Addison, watching him scoop mix into a yellow bucket. "It's my turn. I want to stir."

A couple minutes later, the buckets are full.

"Good job," he said. "Addison, close it up. Let's go feed the calves."

The kids follow. Austin works right alongside his dad.

"Austin is good at driving the skid loader when you need it, opening and closing the gates, scraping the manure and feeding the cows," said Tina.

"Most of the time, I just scare them into the stalls," said Austin, wearing jeans, boots and a white T-shirt.

""He's getting pretty good," said Corey. "He pretty well stays with it. By the time he's 8 years old, he'll be good help where you don't have to watch him all the time.

"Addison gets a little lost once in a while. Addison takes more interest in chickens."

"She's obsessed with getting eggs," said Tina. "She forgets to wear her boots. That's why she's got 50 pairs of tennis shoes."

Addison had already collected five or six eggs that day from the eight chickens.

"Landon tries to help us," said Corey. "He's not quite 3. "He likes to feed the calves."

Or carry the empty bucket back to the milkhouse.

Corey grew up in Stole Town, north of Carlyle.

"We moved to the farm in '84 or '85," he said. His parents, Kenny and Sandy, bought a farm near Carlyle. "I remember standing on a 5-gallon bucket milking cows. That's the way we started. I was about 5."

He's been at it ever since.

He still helps his grandfather Sylvester Hilmes on his farm outside Breese. Corey also farms with his brother, Kyle, who took over the Carlyle farm after their father died.

"I don't know what I like about it," he said, of farming.

"He likes to be his own boss," said his wife.

"I like everything. It's just something that you grow up doing and you keep doing."

"As much as he crabs about it, he really does love it."

So does Austin.

"In summertime, Austin gets up and comes out here right away," said Tina. "On Saturday, he said, 'Can I go milk cows?' Then, he had ball pactice. I wondered, 'Should I shower him because he smells like cows or wait to shower him after ball practice?"

When the cows are calving, Austin drives a four-wheeler attached to a wagon to see if there are new babies.

What does he do if there are?

"I go back and tell them," he said, sitting alongside his dad in the Polaris Ranger, a small utility vehicle, that they also take to go fishing and that day used to get around big puddles after a rain.

"Last summer, I was kind of jealous," said Tina. "Austin got to spend the whole summer with Corey. How many 7-year-olds get to spend the summer with Dad?

"He's very patient with the kids. ... He'd love for the boys to take it over. He and his brother do quite a bit together and that's neat."

That day, Corey also carried hod for a friend.

"When I started milking, I carried hod for three years," he said. "The house market slowed, and I stayed home. The guy I helped today is the guy I used to work with. He needed help doing a house. It's money."

Corey headed off to help milk, scrape out the barn and spray it down.

What time is dinner?

"Whenever he comes in," said Tina, "sometimes 8 o'clock."

"Dad doesn't ever sit still," said Addison.

"Yes, he does," said Austin. "When he sleeps."

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