When people first moved to Joplin to mine, they brought with them animals. Many of these animals were cows. The cows were used for milk and meat. The farmers were in charge of keeping track of the animals and getting meat and dairy products to the miners. The farmers would have to find a water source, a barn, and a field for their cows.
The average day for a Joplin farmer would begin bright and early when he would milk the cow. He had to sit on a stool and place a pail under the cow to catch the milk. Then he would grab and pull the cow’s udder. The milk would squirt out, and once he had emptied out the cow’s milk sac, he would move on to the next cow. The milk would then be taken back to his house and used for making cheese, making butter, cooking, and for drinking.
Next, the farmer had to take the cows down to the water. Sometimes they would drink out of a trough and sometimes from a spring or another body of water. “My job was to lead all the cows down to the spring after school,” said Delores Johnson, a longtime area resident who grew up on a Joplin farm. She explained her daily chores to me. “After I did that, my parents would take them to the field and let them graze. The cows would stay there for the whole day. At night my parents would take the cows back to their barn.” This process was repeated daily.
Cows were an important part of a Joplin resident’s life. They were vital for milk and meat. Even though Joplin started as a mining town, the city may not have been as successful without cows and farmers. They provided the necessary food to the miners and their families helping Joplin to become the boom town it was and the city it is.