September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

At first glance

By Natalie Schmitt- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

If you were to look through the photo albums of your children growing up, what would you see? I see triumphant first steps, toothless grins, absolute pride of pulling in a big one as a crappie wiggles on the end of a hook and, of course, dairy show events. The countless pictures of kids dressed in white with black and white cattle overwhelm our photo albums, but it depends upon how you look at the pictures as to what you see captured in that moment of time.
You have seen the optical illusion or reverse image pictures of inkblot tests for psychology classes. Depending upon how you're wired, one person will see a beautiful Victorian woman while a different person will look at the same picture, only to see an ugly old witch. Same picture, different perspectives. Looking at the cattle/kid pictures is kind of a psychology test in itself.
At first glance, a city person will be puzzled as to why we took the picture in the first place. It just doesn't make sense why the focus of the picture is on the cow's butt. But if a dairyman looks at the same picture, he will notice the rear udder height and width. He will also note the teat placement and slope of rump. Now a mother will look past the animal and focus in on the face of the child. She will search their eyes and tired smiles to see the real focal point of the picture.
In defense of the city person's point of view, though, it does seem that dairy show people tend to fixate on the business end of an animal way too much. Look around the dairy barn and you will see three people huddled around a cow. From a distance it may look like they are just standing there chatting. Look again and you will notice the supplies in hand and the intense lines across their faces. One person is holding a pail lined with straw ready to make a catch with no splatters. One holds the tail out of the way, watching and waiting for the last drop of manure to squeeze out the back end. The third person is ready with a handful of paper towels to wipe off the cow's bottom, sometimes more carefully than they wiped their own young child's bottom. When the job is done, they step back and admire their work.
Life in the show barn has its own set of acceptable behavior rules. Little kids can ask complete strangers to help them. For some reason, the kids thought I was the milk lady at our Dairy Day Show in Sauk Centre last week and they kept asking me to help them get a carton of milk out of the cooler. Grapes and apples will be cleaner than the hands holding them and it's ok. The best acceptable behavior is this. Only in a dairy show barn can a mother brush straw off someone else's child's backside without anyone else thinking twice about it. Do it in K-Mart and the flashing blue lights won't be for an in-store special.
When the Senior Showmanship class takes the ring at the end of a very long day, little kids perch around the rails watching to learn how they do it. Parents watch for the slightest miscue that will throw their child of out the running. At this stage in the game, there is very little difference between the top kids. They are all experienced, calm, confident and know the coveted prize could be theirs if everything goes their way and they stay in control. They try to give off an air of relaxed ease while still being in absolute control of their animal moving as one unit around the ring. They are aware of the judge's position in the ring at all times, ready to shift their animal's feet at a moment's notice. I feel for the judge as he puts the exhibitors through their paces trying to catch someone who slips up.
What about a different kind of showmanship class? Sitting around the show ring as the senior showmanship class drags on, several of us were brainstorming on a different kind of class. Linda said we could shake things up a bit with a Halterless Showmanship class. At first thought, my image was of cattle running all over the fairgrounds because they got away. But the more you think about it, the more this just might work.
We all have those special cows in our barn with a peculiar habit or routine. Linda was telling me about a cow who loved to pull paper towels out of the dispenser when she was in the parlor. As she was focused on prepping the opposite side of the parlor, the next group was making its way into the stalls. Suddenly, Linda would hear the slurp sound of towels being pulled from the dispenser, then another, and another. She knew her friend was in the next group without even turning around. Another cow on their farm loves gum. When she hears you unwrapping the foil off a piece of gum, she comes running, regardless of where she is on the farm for her piece of gum, too. Linda went on to say they even have a couple of cows who will rummage through the boys' sweatshirt pockets in search of salty treats like crackers and pretzels.
We have similar cow named Sugar Pie. She was never in the show ring, but she was Katie's special calf. Katie showered this calf with her love and attention before she headed off to college. Then time separated these two girls. Sugar Pie calved this spring and we have kept her as a switch cow. We scratch our heads at times of why we are doing this. We swear she is as dumb as a box of rocks. She will just wander in any direction she chooses, and generally never the right direction. She seems to have a hard time remembering the how to walk between the barns. It is like she gets lost. Katie and Sugar Pie haven't seen each other for quite some time, but they still remember each other. When Katie was home the other weekend, she was out in time to help switch cows. All of the sudden Sugar Pie saw Katie and ran right up to her and then followed her into the barn without getting lost and no halter.
Linda might be on to something here. If they can train pigs to run around a track for a treat, we should be able to train a cow to follow us around a show ring too. Now wouldn't that be an interesting picture at first glance?[[In-content Ad]]


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