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  • LV Ditchkus

Have you milked a cow?

Don’t let opportunities escape—no matter how mundane or seemingly inane.

We've just returned from a trip to visit dear friends in Ottawa, Canada. They took us to Upper Canada Village, where we were transported to the 1860s—not with time travel like my Chrom Y Series, but in a BMW sedan. The place is dotted with authentic buildings that house artisans and historians. We spoke with a blacksmith, a printer, and folks who made shoes and brooms. But for me, the best experience was in the milking barn.

When I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the only animals I saw were family pets and the occasional snake or rodent. Later (in my early professional years), I examined agriculture banks, but I never got up close and personal with livestock. As a result, I’ve never seen an animal being born or harvested animal products (e.g., milk or eggs) for food.

When a woman in Upper Canada Villages’ milking barn asked, “Who wants to milk the cow?” I muscled my way to the front of the line. Well, not the very front—I let the children go first. As the farmer got his cow started, he told me she was easy to milk. I wondered, how does one differentiate between amenable and insubordinate cows? I assumed it had something to do with Bessie permitting more than calves and seasoned milkers to take a turn.

At any rate, I mimicked the farmer’s technique and coaxed out a decent milk stream (see photo). After a few minutes, I gratefully turned over Bessie’s udder to the next tourist.

What did I learn? Never pass up an opportunity to do something I’ve never done before. Maybe the experience will trigger an idea for a new storyline or bring greater realism into a scene (think scents, textures, and lighting). At a minimum, this experience made me appreciate the farmer’s steady hands and patience—key attributes of many protagonists.

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