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Ryan Dennis

Ryan Dennis is the son of a New York dairy farmer and a literary writer whose early essays were originally published in Progressive Dairyman.

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The puck was two caps from teat dip drums joined together, but the black electrical tape that covered it lent it a feeling of authenticity.

The sticks were sections of stiff plastic piping we tapped on cows’ thurls to head them towards the parlor. When the last cow on either side of us had a milker on, my father and I squared off in the middle of the pit.

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When my cousin Jade was born with pretty red locks to brunette parents, the first question asked was regarding the color of the milkman’s hair. It’s not an uncommon joke by any means, nor is it exclusive to farmers.

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“Hello, this is the Galway Dating Service. Sarah speaking.”

“What’s the craic? Looking for a bird for meself,” Tristan, my Irish friend, said into the receiver, swapping his Dublin accent for a gruff, rural enunciation that probably didn’t exist. We saw the phone number in the newspaper that morning.

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I held the phone in one hand on the table and with the other propped up my forehead. Even though the receiver was an arm’s-length away from me, I could hear Paul breathing – or imagined I could – as he waited for my answer. Finally, I brought the phone back to my ear again.

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I can’t remember exactly how he had gotten here, which may be a testament to how long he was a common sight on the bank near the barn. Since both my mother and aunt taught life sciences at local schools I can only assume that his origin is from a classroom egg incubation experiment.

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Unknown to most of the world, Israeli dairy farmers have developed one of the most advanced dairy industries in existence. This small country with a turbulent political history, scarce resources and one of the worst climates in which to milk cows has pioneered impressive innovations in the field.

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