Author shares her favorite memory of the day her calf took home a 4-H ribbon despite the odds.
Story by Kimberly Gusick
My dad asked me, “Would you like to go choose a calf for your 4-H calf project
Of course my response was an enthusiastic “Yes!” I was 9 years old. There were more than 300 cows on our farm, but this was going to be the first time I could claim a calf for my own. My dad led me through the barn where all our calves were housed. He pointed out all of the ones whose mothers were incredible milkers and those whose fathers produced offspring worthy of titles at fairs and expositions.
Dad’s words grew distant as I spotted her. She had a perfect white heart in the middle of her forehead. Who cared if she was the youngest in the group? It didn’t matter that she’d probably grow up short and squat, like her older sisters. Surely no judge would worry about such technicalities after seeing her natural beauty.
My dad quickly tried to divert my attention. “Look at this calf—she has a lightning bolt on her head,” he suggested.
“No thanks,” I said. “I found the one I want.”
Looking defeated, my dad led me back to his office to fill out the paperwork to register my new heifer with the American Jersey Cattle Association. After asking, “Are you sure?” three or four times, he asked me for her name. “Foxie Roxie,” I declared. My calf had been born fancy, and she needed a fancy name.
I worked very hard with Roxie that summer, training her to walk with a halter. Well, that is, I worked hard when my dad was watching me. When he went out to the field or was milking, Roxie and I would run around and play until we were so tired that we would have to plop down on the grass and take a nap.
I proudly exhibited Roxie at the county fair that summer and was so delighted with the red ribbon she won that I displayed it on the front of her stall. You can imagine my disappointment when it disappeared. I was just about to cry when Roxie kissed me with her sandpaper tongue. As I wiped off her drool with the back of my hand, I noticed it was covered with flecks of red satin.
As Roxie grew, so did the pretty white heart on her forehead, and I believe her real heart was growing as well. Roxie was mischievous, but she loved people and always wanted to be the center of attention. She even won over the practical old farmers who ran the place.
Fourteen years after I chose Roxie, my husband and I were packing to move away from the farm. My dad asked me to stop by the barn before I left. He wanted me to say goodbye to my special friend, who had passed away that morning. I wonder if she knew I was moving on, too. Roxie taught me that best friends come in all shapes, sizes and species. And some are even fancy.