Olympics needs pack of hungry calves

I believe it’s time to stage the official Barnyard Olympics.

Watching the athletes perform their amazing winter sporting skills in Salt Lake, I came to the conclusion that there is an entire population just brimming with talent never given the chance to shine.

“Wow, did you see that?” my son asked me last evening during the Nordic combined competition. I’d been daydreaming on my notion, so my response was, “Yeah, I guess that’s pretty good, but I’ll bet he couldn’t hand-strip a Holstein on a freezing cold morning worth a darn.”

My son gave me that part-puzzled, part-worried look that said, “maybe ole mom needs some serious medication.”

Next we watched some ice skating pairs take the ice. Oh, they were pretty and all, but I say put them in boots and coveralls and see if they could maneuver an icy slope while fighting off a pack of hungry calves. If they manage to swerve and swoop and stay on their feet, THEN I’ll cheer.

The ski competition which entails jumping over bumpy hills of snow, then maneuvering some incredibly fancy move after skiing up and over a ramp, does not look like one bit of fun to me. It kind of reminds me of climbing a hay mow filled with holes and booby traps set by the ornery hired kid on the night you need to get chores done in a hurry. Not fun, but not impossible to rise above, either.

Throw down 20 bales of hay, jump to the right, scooch to the left, and HEY, take a flying leap down to the barn floor while performing a triple loopdey-loop in the air for absolutely no one to see nor cheer about.

Now THAT is deserving of a medal. I’d like to hear the commentary on that one. “Jim, she just – well, what exactly is it she just accomplished? Was she the favorite coming in to this hay throwing competition?”

Years ago, while working as editor of a farm newspaper, I was talked into putting a team together. We were to compete against radio and television personalities in a cow-milking contest.

“No problem,” my friend Jody, a life-long dairy goat expert, said to me.

On the day of the contest, Jody and I learned that our two-woman team would be competing against a couple of other three-man teams. Okay, still no problem. We were confident, unruffled.

The air was sweet with the thrill of fun competition. Then they brought in the “ladies.”

When Jody and I laid eyes on the beautiful, big-boned Holstein with her heavily vein-rippled udder, we just looked at each other and grinned. She was ours, the victory was in the bag.

Next down the model’s runway came a pretty Ada Ayrshire, so lush with milk she was even dripping just the tiniest bit. Ah, we could smell success. That trophy was ours.

But, what to our astonished eyes should appear! A tiny doe-eyed Brown Swiss with a nearly non-existent udder, and we let out quite a shudder when we learned that SHE was to be ours.

Okay, don’t panic, I mumbled. Jody and I did a quick little huddle and focused on strategy. Athletes have overcome unexpected hurdles before. We listened as the judges explained how much milk needed to be collected in tiny cups and then hustled over to the bucket, over and over, until we reached the “fill” mark. Whichever team filled up the bucket first was, of course, the winner.

We had been set up. It would be like giving the world champion tennis player a badminton racquet and a basketball and saying, “Good luck!”

Jody and I were not going to fold. We sweet-talked that little Brown Swiss into letting down. We patted and petted. Jody said, “Wow, these spigots sure aren’t anything like a Toggenburg,” and I sympathized, saying, “They sure aren’t like a Holstein’s either.”

We pleaded. We pulled with finesse. And, wa-lah! The milk started flowing.

We took home the gold, in spite of it all. We were the most talented athletes in those Olympic games. We were, after all, blessed with the genes of All-American country girls who simply couldn’t be stopped.

Oh, wow, maybe I do need a little bit of medication.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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