One of the characteristics you hear over and over about rural Americans – and especially members of the dairy community – is our inclination to help each other in times of need. Sometimes our needs are small; sometimes our needs are large. Sometimes help comes from those we know and love; sometimes help comes from complete strangers.
    During the 4-H livestock encampment of the Minnesota State Fair, Monika found herself in need of help. I was there as one of our county’s chaperones and doing my best to help her, but even I was at a loss for solutions.
    On Friday evening, the night before the show, Monika took her heifer, Debut, out for a walk, to get Debut’s wiggles out after being cooped up for several days at the fair. Dozens of other 4-Hers had the same idea and the area between the cattle barn and the coliseum looked like a mini-show.
    Unfortunately for Monika, Debut wanted nothing more than to go back to the straw pack in the barn. Debut has never loved being on the halter, but I’ve never seen a heifer so downright ornery. And I’ve never seen Monika’s confidence dissolve so quickly. She knew Debut needed to walk well during the show to keep from breaking in the loin; she also had high hopes for showmanship, her favorite class. At that moment, it looked like neither of those was going to go well – and I didn’t know what else to do to help Monika.
    In the next moment, help arrived in the form of an angel named Ashley. Monika didn’t know Ashley; I only knew who Ashley was because she and her family show at the same youth show our kids do.
    “Here, let me help,” Ashley said.
    I held Ashley’s heifer while she helped Monika and Debut around the makeshift ring. After a couple minutes, Ashley told Monika that she’d be right back. Ashley put her heifer away, came back, and helped Monika with Debut for over an hour.
    With awe, I watched this unlikely pair: This was Ashley’s last year of showing in 4-H at the state fair; it was Monika’s first. Ashley comes from one of the larger farms in Minnesota; Monika comes from one of the smaller. Ashley had a registered Red and White heifer; Monika had a crossbred. But, as they worked together, their differences were irrelevant. Ashley’s calm encouragement slowly helped Monika’s confidence return.
    At the show the next morning, Ashley was there again for Monika. I’m not sure how she knew it was time for Monika’s class, but I guess angels just know when we need them.
    “You’ve got this,” Ashley reminded Monika.
    Monika and Debut made it through Debut’s class. Debut was no less ornery than the night before, but Monika’s confidence held up. They finished better than Monika’s goal of getting a blue ribbon.
    Following her class, Monika asked, for the first time ever, if she absolutely had to go back out for showmanship. I told her that showmanship likely wouldn’t go very well, but she needed to go out anyway.
    Indeed, showmanship did not go well at all. As much as I think Monika knew in her head that it wouldn’t go well, in her heart she had held onto the hope that somehow it would go better than she expected. As Monika walked out of the ring, she looked crushed.
    But, again, Ashley was there. She wrapped her arm around Monika and walked with her all the way back to her stall. I’m not sure what Ashley said, if anything – or maybe it was just her presence – but Monika looked like she had been lifted up.
    I thanked Ashley for all of her help, and I hope that my words adequately conveyed the magnitude of my gratitude. What a gift that I was there to witness Ashley’s selflessness.
    Monika thanked Ashley in her own way.
    After Monika was notified she had earned a spot in the Rising Stars of the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase, I asked her which two guests she was going to bring to the showcase brunch.
    “Me and Dan?” I suggested.
    “No, not Dan. I’m going to ask Ashley,” she replied without hesitation.
    Ashley accepted Monika’s invitation and joined us for brunch. As Monika and Ashley sat there together, all dressed up, smiling and chatting, I couldn’t help but marvel again at the unlikeliness of their new friendship.
    Sometimes help shows up in the ways we least expect.
    P.S. Little did we know at the time, our family would end up needing a lot more help before the state fair was over. To be continued…
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.