To the best of my memory, the sliding-glass back door to our then-rural Norman home was never locked. Too many kids without keys. Too many neighborhood friends coming to visit.
It also was open so our milkman, John Potts, could let himself in. He was a mainstay of the Potts Dairy and its beloved herd of Golden Guernsey cows on the south side of Norman.
Three times a week, John loaded nine quarts of raw milk in glass bottles in our green, avocado refrigerator. Make it 12 on Fridays.
Next to a campus rooming house, we were his biggest home delivery customer.
On holidays, he’d leave a quart of thick cream to whip up and serve on a slice of warm pumpkin pie. Our house was usually his final stop of the day.
He always made time to visit, catch up on the activities of six kids and even share some town news or the happenings of his own two children.
On hot summer days, he’d slip into a swimsuit and cool off in our pool at the end of his 18-hour work day.
• • •
Many of us cried when the dairy that began in the 1940s closed in 1979 and the family sold the herd.
Some of us are crying again. Andrew John Potts died earlier this month at age 77.
He was one of the last independent dairymen in a county that had its share of dairies.
There were dozens of such small operations throughout the area — names like Heitz, Kuhlman, Hames, Boyd and Johnson.
Another of our go-to growing up was the Brockhaus Dairy on the west side of Norman, near 36th Avenue NW and Main Street.
The office at Brockhaus had a big chiller full of quarts of milk, and picking it up self-service style entailed putting a small washer on your family’s nail for each quart you picked up — often on the honor system.
• • •
State Highway 9 construction in the 1960s cut the Potts farm on south Chautauqua in half.
The cows grazed south of the highway for a while, but they had to be driven through a narrow chute under the road.
“It was just tall enough for a cow to get through and wide enough for me on my four-wheeler,” John Potts told me several years ago.
At one time, the dairy had as many as 200 cows in its herd. It became inefficient and cumbersome to have the herd spread out.
• • •
Potts had many adventures in that old, blue milk truck.
Once, it rolled down our steep driveway, across the road, then a creek and got lodged high center on a tree trunk. A tow truck came to the rescue.
Another time, it rolled down a hill in a nearby neighborhood and took out the chimney on a two-story house.
Fortunately, it was at the end of his route, and no milk was spilled.
After the dairy closed, Potts delivered Coors beer to grocery stores and then later worked cleaning restaurant fountain taps. All the while, he worked the land, raised some cattle and cut and baled lots of hay.
We’d cross paths a few times and talk about family. Store-bought milk never tasted like the Potts’ finest.
It’s a hometown memory many of us will think of every time we raise up a glass of real raw milk.
Cheers to you, Andrew John Potts.