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The Milk House: Chris and the cornfield romance

Ryan Dennis Published on 11 September 2014

My parents have a bad habit that I don’t condone: They watch “The Bachelorette” on ABC. In the reality show, either a man or woman spends the season narrowing down a group of potential partners in search of “love.” I call it a loss in the battle for cultural integrity. They call it entertaining.

Although I’m not proud to admit it, there have been times when I’ve been in the house while the show was on and somehow, despite the air of superiority I try to maintain, I found myself watching it.

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This season, household enthusiasm was particularly high because one of the 25 men trying to win the favor of the bachelorette was Chris, a 34-year-old farmer from a small town in Iowa.

Every Monday night, my parents leaned toward the television set, sure every rose ceremony was going to be the one that Chris was asked to leave, and then cheering every time he got the rose again. The bachelorette was Andi, a former assistant district attorney from Atlanta.

“He’s almost ugly enough to be good-looking,” my father said. “Sure doesn’t know how to dress,” my mother replied. Somehow, whenever Chris grabbed Andi’s back pockets while making out it felt like a victory for farmers everywhere.

Chris’ popularity seemed to increase throughout the season. He became the quintessential image of composure, patience and no-nonsense manhood. Against what originally seemed like unlikely odds, he made it to the final three bachelors.

On the last episode in which he appeared, he took Andi to his home in Iowa. After she arrives, a small plane flies over with a banner reading “Chris Loves Andi.” Soon after, they kiss in a cornfield. She states that she’s not a “city girl” because her family has a cabin in Alabama.

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Later, she drives a tractor over what appears to be a seeded field and then struggles to ride a horse. At one point, they see who can throw pig manure farther with a shovel. It was obvious the show had constructed the date and that they wanted to make it “rural.” They didn’t do the farmer any favors.

After each hometown visit, Andi gets to take the potential suitor to the Fantasy Suite for a presumed night of romance. After a day of heaving pig dung and clutching the mane of a horse, she unfortunately sent Chris home early.

“I have too much respect for you to blame it on Iowa,” Andi explains to him, although she makes it clear she could never live there. Throughout her tearful rationalization, it becomes apparent that the word “Iowa” was not just a geographical reference but had grown to represent the farming lifestyle Chris had come from.

Finding love – the non-TV kind – is hard enough. “The Bachelorette” unwittingly shed light on another truth – for those on a farm, it can sometimes be harder. The dating world gets smaller considering those who – when things get serious – are willing to take on a type of existence different than the one they know.

I’ve traveled enough to notice there are a lot of pretty girls in the city. Some of them even have a romanticized view of farming. Few of them, I suspect, would milk cows.

The best chance for the sons and daughters of farmers is to find other sons and daughters of farmers, or at least fish from the pool of other rural people, as shallow as it might be. It always seemed like many dairy farmers ended up with horse girls. It only struck me later that perhaps the extra pasture had something to do with it.

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Once I was dating a German girl who thought she wanted to eventually move to my family’s homestead. I thought she must be crazy to come from a wealthy family in Heidelberg and want to live on a dairy farm. It turns out ... she was crazy.

When I broke up with her, she mailed me a box with everything I had gotten her. They now all had unsavory German words written on them. There was a T-shirt that once said “Girls Like to Drive Tractors.”

When it came back, it read “I’d Like to Drive a Tractor Over You!” Another shirt that had stated “I Kissed a Farmer and I Liked it” became “I Kissed a Fake Farmer and it Made Me Want to Throw Up!” Apparently she had lost her zeal for the agricultural lifestyle.

While there don’t seem to be any easy answers for farm kids on the dating scene, it does appear that Chris is going to be all right. During the “Men Tell All” episode before the finale, an attractive Canadian girl interrupted his interview with the host to get a speed date with him during the commercial break.

Also, he looks to be the early favorite to star in next season’s “The Bachelor” and get his pick among 25 beautiful women. As for the rest of us, the search is still on for those who might not find Iowa so bad. PD

Ryan Dennis is the son of a dairy farmer from western New York and a literary writer. The Dennis family dairies and maintains a 100-plus cow herd of Holsteins and Shorthorns.

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