Dairy family’s legacy puts them on parade

Screws family chosen to serve as grand marshals of Dairy Festival parade Saturday

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Jun 3, 2007 - Leading off next Saturday's Dairy Festival Parade, which officially gets the annual salute to the dairy industry under way, will be a long-time Pine Forest dairy family.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

The Screws family will be leading the Hopkins County Dairy Festival Parade in the North Pole of Texas train next Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. in Buford Park. Pictured left to right are Linda, Alan and David Screws. Not pictured are Kim, Kinde, Justin, Jonathan and Aaron Screws.

The Dairy Festival Board of Directors this year opted to honor the Screws family, who for five generations have been working dairies on their corner of Pine Forest. Linda and David Screws, their son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Kim Screws, along with at least one of Alan and Kim's children will act as grand marshals of the Dairy Fest Parade as it departs from Buford City Park at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9.

The family has had kin working dairies on their property since the early 1940s. Linda's grandparents, Floyd and Ida Christenberry, had the first dairy farm, where they hand-milked cows. Linda's parents, Paul and Nadine O'Dell, were already working a dairy when she was born.

Linda can recall a time when she was a small girl, around 1950, when her dad started the first parlor-type barn in Hopkins County. They also expanded their operation from 35 to about 60 cows when her father, Paul, bought more land.

"At one time you could stand on the hill and count 10 dairy barns with 30 to 40 cows each," said David Screws of the tall hill just beyond their home and their son's.

"Almost everyone here [in that section of Pine Forest] either owned or worked on a dairy," Linda said. 

In 1966, Linda and David Screws went in with her father and established their own dairy, with one barn and a mere 11 cows. David at first split his time between milking cows and rough-necking, but they continued to expand their base, adding more cows.

When they were up to about 55 cows, David had to make the decision to either quit the dairy or the oil business because there weren't enough hours for both. He opted to continue on in the dairy business.

Linda recounted a time when a truck, much like those seen on TV show "The Waltons" that was set in the Depression Era, would arrive to carry the 5-gallon buckets they had filled with milk to the processing plant. They started out milking into a bucket, then straining the milk into a can, which then was poured into a cooler with cold water to wait for the truck.

Until the 1980s, the Screws did nearly all of the work on the dairy by themselves, with only the help of family, such as son Alan, and two hands.

Alan and his wife Kim also followed in his parent's footsteps and joined the dairy business. In 1988, when he graduated from college, Alan built the "double-12 barn," which holds about about 600 cows.

Since then the Screws dairy has really expanded, with nearly the whole milking process nearly completely automated. Alan's children, Kinde, Justin, Jonathan and Aaron, have all pitched in to help in the family business.

For the last dozen years or so, the family has raised all of their cows. 

"It's been a good life," Linda said. 

"It's a way of life," David added. "You can't take it as a job. You can't just quit and walk away. You're on call 24 hours a day."

"You have to like it," Alan added.

On April 1, however, the Screws, both Linda and David and Alan and Kim, sold their cows and opted to lease their land to their neighbors on the Allround Dairy up the road.

"You have two options — keep growing or sell to someone who is growing their business," David said.

"The profit per cow is smaller now, so it requires more cows," Alan said. "Now a dairyman almost has to also be a farmer to raise their own grain, and for that you need expensive equipment."

"At our age, we didn't want to do that," Linda said, referring to the family's hard decision to sell their cows.

"It was a good option. Our main concern was our employees being out of a job if we sold," Alan said. "They've worked for us 20-25 years. If we sold it, they'd have no job. If we sell the cows and rent the property, they can keep working. Allrounder needed them, so that's what we did. ... This deal worked ou really well."

Although they sold their milking cows, it will still be a few years before the Screws family is completely out of the business. That won't happen until the calves are ready for breeding, according to Linda.

The Screws family will be easily recognizable as the grand marshal of the Hopkins County Dairy Festival Parade. Not only will they be at the front of the processions, you can't miss their ride. Children will immediately identify the train they'll be in as one they have ridden in December. when Alan and Kim offer free rides throughout their property — better known to kids as The North Pole of Texas.

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