June is Dairy Month - 30 days set aside to honor our nation's dairy farmers. Dairy farmers are a select group of people; folks who live their lives by the laws of lactation. They are intimately acquainted with the fact that cows don't give milk; it's taken from them by force.
Having grown up on a dairy farm and having been a dairy farmer for much of my life, I can appreciate the effort involved in getting dairy products to the consumer. It may come as a shock for some to learn that dairy products don't simply appear in the supermarket's dairy case as if some magician were constantly conjuring magnums of milk and boxes of butter.
Perhaps one of the most exciting tasks on the dairy was milking a fresh heifer for the first time. In this case, "exciting" can mean "hazardous and sometimes painful."
But imagine things from the heifer's perspective. She had led a pleasant life that consisted of hanging out with her pals and noshing at the all-you-can-eat alfalfa buffet and gossiping about how Bessie thinks her yellow ear tags are SOOO cool.
And had she checked out that cute new bull who recently appeared on the scene? Isn't he simply gorgeous? He's a Holstein Justin Bieber!
The heifer pretended that she hadn't noticed him, but that wasn't quite so. Truth is, she had had a secret rendezvous with the young bull the night he arrived. The moon was soaring high in the autumn sky, and he had gazed at her soulfully, his big brown eyes conveying the depths of his passion. How could she say no?
She had noted some changes since then, changes that told her she was with calf. The rest of her herd had also noticed but were too polite to say anything. Besides, they had each succumbed to the bull's charms.
Then it happened. One June evening, she retired to a secluded corner of the heifer lot and became a mother.
She doted on her new baby. But then the humans, those benign beings who brought grain and the occasional salt block, began to act strangely. Several humans entered the lot and one of them kidnapped her baby!
The human scurried out a gate, carrying her damp calf in his arms. The heifer trotted behind the human, following him and her calf through an open door and into a barn.
Inside the barn, the heifer saw that some of her more matronly herd mates were standing side by side in rows. Her calf had been placed in front of one of these rows where the older cows sniffed it with great curiosity. The heifer saw an opening between two cows and shoved her way in.
A wooden stanchion snapped shut, and she was suddenly trapped! She fought for a few moments but was soon calmed by the presence of her calf.
The teenaged kidnapper slipped into the small space between her and the adjoining cow. He made sounds that were intended to soothe, but she quivered like a captured bird.
He gently touched her flank, and she instantly responded with a powerful kick. It missed. The human continued to quietly and persistently caress her until her fierce temper had subsided somewhat.
The human then began to clean her udder with a warm washcloth. The effrontery! She countered with a flurry of kicks that were so blindingly swift that the words "greased lightning" were muttered. One kick connected, and the human made sounds that indicated pain.
This dance continued for a while, although her hooves never again found their mark. The humanoid seemed capable of learning and anticipating. This was surprising.
The human next attached a bizarre vacuum device to her udder. Sheer astonishment caused her to freeze for a moment. She quickly recovered and used her hooves to violently uninstall the offending apparatus.
But the hominid didn't give up, reattaching the contraption again and again. The heifer soon sensed a marked decrease in the pressure in her udder and began to relax.
Finally, the human removed the weird suction machine and exited the tight space between the heifer and her neighbor. She then noticed that a pile of fodder was in front of her. It was topped with grain, like a silage sundae. She sampled it. Delicious!
And as she wolfed down the treat, one of the humans said to the teenaged kidnapper who had so cheekily violated her personal space, "You have any trouble with that new heifer?"
"Not much," he replied. "But I had to use some sleight of hand. Stick around, the next magic show happens again this evening!"