Life does not treat us all the same. Especially in the area of what is perceived as beauty, handsome or cute. When a child begins to encounter these judgments from others, it can be devastating to their self image if they cannot see through the smoke screen and learn to judge for themselves who they are and not necessarily how they look. I think that as people from a farming and livestock community, we have a special way of analyzing, looking at and understanding this judgmental process. This is a short story about how my daughter Dawna saw herself and her relationship to other girls.
Dawna was the youngest of three children. Her mother lovingly referred to her as “My Little Short Legs.” As she grew into her preteen years, she hated that description and we teased her with it, nicknaming her Short Legs. Along came the early teens and she saw herself as over weight and short
Why wouldn’t she think she was short? Her good friend was Stacy Cornaggia, who was 6 feet tall in seventh grade. Then came the comments from the boys, describing her as “a little heavy, but with a real good personality.”
Dawna was a 4-H member and showed her cattle at the local and state fairs. She saw how animals were judged for their size, style, length and beauty. She saw how some judges placed different values in differing areas, giving advantages to personal preference. She was a kid who loved her animals. She saw personality traits in her animals and often judged them on her own scale. If she loved her animal, she did not see the faults. If she saw the faults, she overlooked them. That is often referred to as “ownership pride.” Thus the story of two heifers named Mary and Kelly.
Mary was a pathetic thing. Small for her age, with a sway back and spindly legs. She had a sad sack face that her owner adored because she was gentle and had pretty eyes. She was friendly and loved to be brushed. Kelly, on the other hand, was a beauty. She was unbeaten at several shows, including the state fair. Dawna spent a lot of time getting Mary ready for the show. Mary had to be brushed and clipped. Her hair was long and scraggly. A good clip job can often hide some of the shortcomings. Kelly’s hair coat was naturally short, shiny and a golden shade of blond. Kelly always looked ready for the show with little effort.
Dawna took the heifers to the Madera Fair. When her class was called, she proudly paraded her beloved Mary in the show ring, where she placed last in her class. The dairy judge approached Dawna and commented, “I know that you have some really good animals, why did you bring this heifer to the show?”
Dawna, slightly insulted by his comment, replied, “Her name is Mary and she has a really good personality.”
At that point, she went back to get Kelly ready for the next class. The class was called for Kelly. Dawna walked into the show ring and paraded the beautiful Kelly around the arena with heifers head held high. She knew that she would win the class, and she did. The judge walked over to Dawna and jokingly said, “Young lady, this is a beautiful animal. Does she have a good personality?” With the blue ribbon in hand, Dawna replied, “Her name is Kelly and she doesn’t need one!”
Ronnie Ray is a third-generation dairyman and has lived in the Dairyland area for more than 60 years.