A.D. Shrum and his first cousin Gerald Williams have both spent all of their 65 years living on a dairy farm. Soon, however, the two owners of S.S.W. Farm plan to sell their milk cows and retire from the business.
For most of their lives, the men have had to work from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. By closing the dairy, they hope to switch things up and â€œput the seven first and four last â€“ go fishing when we want to,â€ Shrum said.
Shrumâ€™s father, Woodrow, now 89, first opened the farm in 1942 with just five cows. There, the Shrum extended family grew up and the number of cows increased. It was a childhood full of chores, but Shrum and Williams remember it fondly.
â€œIt was a whole lot of hard work, but it was probably twice the life,â€ Shrum said. â€œKids now, they know movies and stuff like that. They donâ€™t know what really goes on in life.â€
Back then the farm, which is located near the Catawba County line, was isolated.
â€œIt was two cars a week come by, and I knew exactly who they were,â€ Shrum said.
Now, N.C. 321 cuts through the Shrumâ€™s old farmland and Lincoln County Industrial Park can be seen from their houses.
The men are looking forward to retirement and so is Williamâ€™s brother Ronnie, who is an employee on the farm.
â€œYou ever get up at 4 in the morning seven days a week?â€ he asked.
The men will still be doing farm work. They plan to sell their more than 100 dairy cows, but are keeping the â€œyoung stuff,â€ or younger cows. When they grow older, those cows will also be sold, and the main focus of the farm will shift to growing feed.
The men have spent their lives with cows, but learned early on not to get attached to them â€“ even if they do say cows are a lot like humans.
â€œThey have different temperaments, different personalities,â€ Williams said.
â€œSome will kick you right quick,â€ Shrum added.
And while some of the cows can be ornery, giving up their dairy farm may be difficult for the men.
â€œI just feel like itâ€™s a part of history gone, and itâ€™s something we donâ€™t want to do, but itâ€™s something you feel compelled to do,â€ said Shrumâ€™s wife, Hilda. â€œTheyâ€™re worn out.â€
Williams and Shrum became part owners of the farm in the mid-60s. Over the years, theyâ€™ve done their share of milking cows, feeding cows and hauling cow manure.
The farm has also been a site for school children from both Catawba and Lincoln counties to explore. Shrumâ€™s father has scrapbooks full of thank-you letters from area kids.
There are no longer hundreds of children going through the farm each year, but there is a few that still get to enjoy the property.
â€œThe grandkids all like walking around the farm to see whatâ€™s happening,â€ Shrum said.
There are also a good number of curious cats roaming the area. People have made a habit of dropping off their unwanted animals on the farmâ€™s land.
With the dairy on its way out, milk to feed those cats will become scarce.
â€œWeâ€™re just going to have to buy some milk and take it down,â€ said Shrumâ€™s wife.
Thatâ€™s just one of the many ways the familyâ€™s life will soon be different. Williams knows heâ€™ll miss the work, but says, â€œItâ€™s time for a change anyway.â€
by Sarah Grano