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Kazooziphone: How Howard the Milkman made $10

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milnerhowardHoward Milner glances at his watch; it’s almost 8 o’clock. He turns his truck from his milk route and drives downtown. He parks before the Beloit Daily News building, pours coffee from his thermos and plucks a newspaper from behind his seat. It’s last night’s paper. He studies the classified page. There is an item hidden on the page, put there once a week to encourage people to read the advertisements. It’s always different, and it offers $10 to the first person the next day who arrives at the Daily News office, fulfilling a certain requirement. “First person to arrive in a pink bathing suit.” “First person to arrive with a home-baked pumpkin pie.” “First person to arrive with half a beard.” Howard has never competed in these contests, but the box this time reads, “$10 prize to the first person who arrives at the Daily News office and plays a musical instrument.

Howard finishes his coffee. He then opens his glove compartment and takes out a battered kazoo, left there by one of his children. He takes the piece of hose and the funnel he keeps in his truck for any gas emergency. He jams the funnel into one end of the hose and the kazoo into the other. He loops the hose so that the contraption resembles a French horn with the funnel as the bell. He practices a few minutes, then hops out of his truck and enters the building. He stands by the information desk and plays “Yankee Doodle.” By the time he’s finished, he’s the center of a small crowd.

“There,” Howard says. “I’ve played a musical instrument in your office and it’s only 8:03. Am I the first?”

“I’m not sure that’s a musical instrument,” says the girl at the information desk. “What is it?”

“A kazooziphone,” Howard says promptly. “An instrument that plays music.” He puts the kazooziphone to his mouth again and plays “Turkey in the Straw.”

The group agrees the kazooziphone is a musical instrument. They take him around to all the offices and he plays “Turkey in the Straw” again, and “The Arkansas Traveler,” and “Suwannee River.” When he comes back to the information desk there’s a man with a saxophone, a woman with a clarinet, and a boy with a mouth organ. But Howard was the first. They give him $10 and a photographer takes his picture. He goes back to delivering his route.

That night Howard’s picture is on the front page. He’s playing his instrument and standing before the milk truck, with “Dougan Guernsey Farm Dairy, The Babies’ Milkman” plain to see. The headline reads, “Musical Milkman Konkocts Kazooziphone.” — Jacqueline Jackson (jjack1@uis.edu)

dougan-logo1“Kazooziphone” is among dozens of stories included in The Round Barn, a forthcoming book about life on a dairy farm near Beloit, Wis. Jacqueline Dougan Jackson is the author of more than a dozen books, including Stories from the Round Barn (1997) and More Stories from the Round Barn (2002). Howard Milner, a longtime Dougan Dairy employee, died in 2006. He was 94.

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Written by writer. Edited by editor.

January 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

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