Remembering 'Cow Kiss'
A young Kylie Daniels gives her heifer a smooch at the 1997 Tunbridge World’s Fair. Daniels, now Kyle Preisinger, helped her family sell off the herd of milking shorthorns at Green Acres Farm this past weekend. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)
Each year, for a few glorious days, The Tunbridge World’s Fair rises from morning mists of that marginal time in September when the sun, slipping below the equator, loosens its hold upon these hills and valleys, and begins, once again, its journey into the dark, cold, sleep of winter.
From the dawn of time, we have sensed the shift. Deep in the bone, in the genetic memory of our cellular structure, we know this is the time for laying up stores of food for the long, lean months ahead.
The days of summer, when the clang of horse-shoes and crack of the bat could be heard long into the evening, are gone now. Gone, too, are hot evenings in the field, haying until a late dinner, followed by falling desperately, deliciously, into bed, the fan’s hum keeping the rising heat at bay.
Soon this sun will slip from view at 4 p.m. and children will trudge to school through morning snow before its rising.
The Tunbridge Fair is our final hurrah before the end of another year.
Having worked for months with their animals, young members of 4-H clubs come to the fair full of hope. Their charges are repeatedly curried and combed, watered and fed, until the big moment when they have their chance to show. Before the watchful eye of the judge and an appreciative gathering of onlookers, the youngsters circle their calf or heifer in the dairy arena. The look of the animal is important, but so, too, is the ability of the youngster to handle and show.
In 1997, I was photographing proceedings in the dairy ring when a young teen won the grand prize blue ribbon with her milking shorthorn. Kylie Daniels walked from the arena, eyes brimming with joy, with two-year old Green Acres Meghan BT.
As she approached, heading back to the dairy sheds, I congratulated Kylie and asked if I could take a photograph.
For this image, I had her circle Meghan back around to a steep grass-covered embankment, away from the hubbub.
Using a telephoto, perhaps my 180mm Nikon portrait lens set at a very shallow aperture, I isolated Kylie and Meghan against the embankment for this photograph.
Standing there, still in the full flush of pride and joy, Kylie hugged an unblinking Meghan and planted a kiss.
As kisses go, this one was special. There is absolutely no mistaking the deep love this young girl had for her blue-ribbon cow. Eyes closed and lost to the world outside, Kylie Daniels is breathing in the fullness of this incredible moment.
And seeing her, we cannot help but be pulled along into her deep and wonderful joy. Decades later, this moment, held forever in the emulsion of film and print, still catches at my heart.
Keeping It Simple
The elements of the image are few, and this is where its power lies. Everything brings us into the kiss. There is nothing to divert our attention from this.
The background, blurred by the very shallow focal depth of a wide-open telephoto lens, is as diffuse as mist.
Emerging from this, the unfocused flank of the heifer comes from the left of the frame, leading us to the sharply defined halter which, in turn, brings our eye across Meghan’s muzzle to Kylie’s hand, gripping the rope, and Kylie’s face pressed in tight.
The cow’s eye, open, is a perfect counter-point to the girl’s eye, closed. In similar balance, the milky white of Meghan’s back contrasts with the Kylie’s silhouetted ponytail, bound by a cord echoing the halter.
Completing the image is the simple, fitting caption, provided by the sweatshirt manufacturer, “Champion.”
The Long View
This photograph ran in the September 23, 1997 Herald, on a page with many other photographs from the fair. John O’Brien’s film “Vermont Is for Lovers,” was then on the screen, and the page paid homage, entitled, “Tunbridge Is for Lovers.”
Depicted were moments of affection from throughout the fair. There was a boy rubbing the muzzle of a pony as he passed by, old folks walking arm-in-arm on the midway, a gal planting a kiss on the upheld prize from a game of chance, a goldfish in a water-filled baggie.
Of all the pictures on that page, however, this one captured the hearts of our readers, and others as well, for it was selected for display in the newly opened McDonald’s up at Exit 4 on I-89 and stayed there for more than 20 years. It was also featured in Vermont Life magazine, and used in marketing Vermont dairy farming.
Sadly, Meghan died too young, just three years after this picture was taken.
As for Kylie Daniels, she’s got farming deep in her blood. She was raised in dairy by her grandmother, Ruth Shumway, studied animal science at UVM, followed by a master’s in dairy management and science at Perdue. For 12 years this spring, she’s worked in advancing dairy nutrition with Archer Daniels Midland.
Though she now lives far from Vermont in North Carolina with a family of her own, according to her parents, Joan and Craig Wortman, “Kylie is the brains” behind the continued breeding and development of the nationally-recognized milking shorthorn herd at Green Acres Farm in South Randolph.
This portrait taken long ago, shows the dedication, intelligence, tenacity, and love of one who would in time become an acknowledged leader in American dairy science and practice.
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