Cutout-cow milking

In a sawdust-filled mini-arena in a corner of the Expo Barn at the North Dakota State Fair Wednesday afternoon, three tiers of amateur milk maidens and masters lined up to milk “Bessy,” a fake, smiling cow composed of two mirrored cutout images. I was one of them.

Partially growing up on a farm just outside of Washington Court House, Ohio, it was no advantage for me when I, along with other members of the media and other semi-recognizable figures, was asked to join the “celebrity” portion of the Cow Milking Competition. Cow milking has never been a part of my life, and fake cow milking even further from my area of expertise. Still, I was determined to do my employer, The Minot Daily News, proud.

I was paired against Gary Brode, a reporter for a local television station, who also grew up in Ohio, but in Youngstown.

He’s taller and looks stronger than me, but we each had a different tactic. I could see his hands squeeze both rubber teats at the same time, efficiently squirting the milk into his bucket. I took a different approach, alternating the squeezes and maintaining a furious pace for the first 50 seconds or so of the two-minute standoff, but then my fingers seemed to lock and my squeezes became a shadow of their former fury.

The sweat on my forehead may have primarily been because it was very hot after the breeze abruptly quit just before the race began, but it was also from my concerted effort to not fail this ridiculous race against a difficult opponent.

Then the “milk,” which, according to Jennifer Hubrig, the State Fair marketing director, is actually a solution used to color water, seemed to be spraying everywhere except my bucket. I had noticed that Sarahbeth Ackerman, of another local television station, had sprayed a good portion of her efforts into her opponent’s bucket, so I didn’t let my own wasted efforts deter me. I had to beat Brode.

And surprisingly I did. By 5 ounces.

Second place went to Brode and third place went to the 67th North Dakota Dairy Princess, Susan Hintz, who was the leading female participant.

The only thing more surprising than winning a celebrity cow milking competition was being asked to be a participant in the first place. Still, I truly had a good time.

But State Fairs are really about two things: agriculture and happy children.

Those people in the stands weren’t there to see me, other reporters, fire marshals, Minot State University athletes, or disc jockeys. They were there to see the smiles broaden on the faces of their children. So the real race came next.

The looks of determination on the faces of the children as they saddled up to their stools put we adults to shame. These kids were here to win, gloat, conquer, and then bashfully accept their prizes if they won.

And that’s what happened.

When Shenise Klein, of Mercer, stepped up to the announcer to accept her two tickets to Wednesday night’s show of Sawyer Brown, a prize the winning adult, Lynette Vollmer, Denbigh, also received, she was a young woman of very few words, reddened cheeks but a brilliant smile. She was the true winner that day.

The second to fifth place runners-up in both categories also received free milkshakes provided by the Midwest Dairy Association and redeemable at the “Milkshakes and Mooore” wagon located next to the Expo Barn.

As for me, the State Fair will be cutting a check for $100 toward the charity of my choice. Since I’ve only recently come to call Minot home readers are very welcome to share their preferred charities.