Nothing keeps Mike White from his daily dairy deliveries — not even surgery. Two weeks ago, the third-generation milkman wrapped up his route at 11:30 a.m., showered and arrived at the hospital by 1:30 p.m. for what was fortunately an uneventful hernia repair.

“When you’re self-employed, you really have to have things scheduled out,” Mike says.

You also have to be circumspect about whom to tap when the doctor says you can’t lift more than 15 pounds for a month. Mike knew he needed help to haul milk, ice cream and frozen meat on 50 stops a day, four days a week, in St. Louis Park, Edina and Minneapolis. He knew he needed David Nelson.

“My parents have been served by Mike since before I was born,” says David, a 20-year-old exercise science student at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The youngest of five children, David always was the biggest milk drinker in his clan. Even better, he’s a competitive weightlifter.

“He’s stronger than me,” Mike confirms, “although I’m curiously strong for my age,” which is 61.

Mike has been driving his sunny yellow and white White’s Dairy Delivery truck since 1978, following the legacy of his grandfather, Emmett, and father, James. Mike’s wife, Suzie, had her own route for years, and his son, Steve, a teacher, pitched in when he was younger.

The week before surgery, Mike began training David, who quickly grasped the wisdom behind rule No. 1: Go to bed early. David awoke at 3:15 a.m., “to consume lots of caffeine,” and arrived at Mike’s St. Louis Park home before 5. They drove together to Kemp’s Dairy in northeast Minneapolis, loaded the truck and arrived at their first stop, the St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP), just before 7. After leaving 135 dozen eggs (a weekly donation from Mike’s parish), they stopped at a day care center.

“Mike, what’s the best way to get these on here?” David asked as he studied his dolly and several crates of milk.

“Oh, right. I haven’t shown you that, yet,” Mike says. “Just tip it back like that.”

On a tree-lined street, they jumped out in matching red shirts for a series of home deliveries.

“She forgot me,” Mike says, after repeatedly ringing the doorbell of a new customer. “It’s hard to remember until you get into a pattern.”

Next door, a seasoned customer awaits. She gets milk. Her dog gets a Milkbone from a 10-pound box Mike keeps in his truck. (He has cat treats, too.)

Four days later, post-surgery, Mike is back in the driver’s seat, directing David, frozen pizza by frozen pizza.

“It went pretty good,” says Mike, who might try to keep his competent assistant a bit longer.

“The best part is interacting with people,” David says, including one young woman in a UMD Bulldogs shirt. “I’m learning to pay attention to details,” David adds, “and am finding out just how bad the drivers are on the highway.”