Looking at summer milestones

As we settle into fall, I have been reflecting on the summer’s milestone events experienced by my family and I. There were college and high school graduations. The first of our daughters got married in July. Plus, our youngest daughter completed her last year in 4-H at the Trumbull County Fair. This also has brought back my own memories of going to the fair and of growing up on the farm.

I grew up on a dairy farm in northeastern Geauga County. My father was the adviser of my 4-H club, the Thompson Ledge Dairymen. My older sister and brother had been members for several years by the time I was old enough to join 41 years ago. (Yes, I’m aging myself a bit, but remember the milestones we reached this summer.) So, when I finished third grade I was ready to be a member of 4-H and have some fun.

I learned that taking a dairy calf to the fair was a lot of fun, but a lot of work, too. Had to practice leading of course, but washing cows was no fun. No longer was I allowed to sleep in and come to the fair with my mom on show day. I was up early on those cold, September mornings. We had to get to the fairgrounds early to wash our cows so they would be clean and dry by show time. When my sister was old enough to drive, she was the one in charge on those mornings. I remember Linda being quite the taskmaster.

There was also disappointment during those early years. Most children want to win, whatever the competition. Well, I was no exception. At that time, there were more dairy farms and more children involved in dairy 4-H, so there was heavy competition. I often found myself in the bottom half of the class. I remember my dad having a talk with me after one particular show day when my heifer and I placed last in our class. He told me that all our cows were working girls. Their main priority was making milk and the prettiest cows that won the shows didn’t necessarily make a lot of milk. My dad’s breeding program priorities still favored milk production, but when it came to selecting a sire for one of the 4-H, “type” was a close second. “Type” are those dairy characteristics that win blue ribbons.

My family and many of my friends know who Betty is. She was the cow that chased my post-show day tears away. She was a good-looking heifer, but after she had her first calf Joy, she blossomed. She may not have won her class every time, but she was in the top half. Her daughter Joy was also a very good-looking cow. Together in the Dam and Daughter class, they were about unbeatable. I showed Betty for seven years in 4-H and Joy for five years.

If you haven’t guessed, these two cows became more like pets to me. They proved themselves by the milk they produced as well as in the show ring. I think my Dad would have to admit that they were more than working girls to him, too. I missed them when I went off to college. When I would come home for the weekend, I would always take time to see them. They were generally in the same part of the barn so they were easy to find and seemed glad to see me, too.

Each of our daughters have had their favorite cows over the years and have their own stories and memories to share. I am thankful that we were able to raise our daughters on a dairy farm.

Smallsreed is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.