If only milking a real cow were that easy.
On Monday morning, Ethan Geisler didn’t have to milk a cow to help kids learn how one of their favorite drinks is produced.
He just poured water into a funnel atop the model of a dairy cow at the Washington County Fair in Arlington.
Under the cow, little kids tried milking the bovine replica, often learning that it wasn’t so simple.
And it could be messy.
“Why do we need so much water?” asked 5-year-old Charlie Monier of Fort Collins, Colo., as the wet stuff splashed about.
Charlie and his siblings, who included 6-year-old Jack, were at the fair with their grandparents, Mark and Cheryl Keeler of Arlington. They and other children were playing at the Washington County Ag Zone — a learning area hosted by the Washington County Farm Bureau, Blair and Arlington FFA Chapters and Nebraska Extension.
Geisler, who represents the Farm Bureau, said the zone helps educate kids about agriculture.
“We need our young people to understand where their food, fuel and fiber comes from,” Geisler said.
Children coming to the zone could try milking the cow replica. They could take part in other activities, such as holding a baby chick, coloring a picture of a pig or pretending to go grocery shopping at a small play store.
The baby chicks proved popular with the children.
“They’re pretty excited about that,” Geisler said.
Nearby, Katy Adams of Blair coached her grandchildren on the proper way to hold the little, fuzzy, yellow chicks.
Her grandson Paul Adams, 12, carefully cupped one of the chicks in his hands, folding his thumbs ever so lightly over the little bird to help keep it in place.
This wasn’t the Omaha boy’s first time at chick-holding, but he still seemed amazed by the little bird.
“They’re so huge,” Paul said about hens, “and this is a tiny chick.”
A short time earlier, his 5-year-old twin sisters, Veronica and Stephanie, took their turn at milking the cow replica.
And before that, the Keelers watched as their grandsons tried milking the huge black and white model cow.
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“Grandpa had to show them how to milk a cow,” Cheryl said.
The experience brought back memories for Mark Keeler, who was around 10 or 12 years old when he helped milked cows for his uncle in Yutan. Keeler’s uncle’s had about 35 or 40 cows and a milking machine.
“It was a lot of work,” Keeler said. “You had to start early — probably 6 a.m. and milk them twice a day and the next day you had to do it all over.”
Keeler had another chore, too.
“I had to clean the barn after I was done milking,” he said.
Years later, Keeler never expected to be giving his grandchildren a milking lesson.
There is a knack to it.
“You’ve got to grab on the top and squeeze your way down,” he said, adding, “Kids don’t know how to milk cows.”
Back at a nearby table filled with pens, pencils, activity books and coloring pages, Geisler noted that milking a live cow is a little different than a model.
A real cow has a mind of its own, he pointed out.
But real or not, the cow replica proved popular with children, particularly those between the ages of 3 and 7, which kept Geisler busy, adding water to the bovine model.
“I keep having to fill it up,” Geisler said, smiling.
As they prepared to take their grandchildren to other attractions at the fair, the Keelers mentioned how they enjoy bringing the kids, who live in a city, to see the animals.
And that’s not the best part.
“Spending time with our grandkids — that’s the best part,” Cheryl said.
Not far away, other parents and grandparents watched as children played with little farm implement toys — not in a sandbox — but in a wooden box filled with corn and soybeans.
Dean and Darlene Beran of Arlington looked on as their 4-year-old grandson, Carson Moos of Fremont, drove a little planter through the mixture. Brittane Meads of Kennard watched her 2-year-old son, Bryson, play with a toy tractor.
It was all part of activities that could help teach kids about the farm in a way that could be memorable for them — and for the people who brought them to the fair.