“Speaking of Stable Geniuses” by Deborah Rasmussen

Deborah Rasmussen


I’ve only known one. It was my uncle
the dairyman who taught me to dip one finger
into a pail of freshly drawn milk and offer it
to syrup-eyed calves, who sucked greedily
for small reward then followed my hand
into the pail over and over until they learned
that milk could be freely lapped!
a miracle in the eyes of us youngsters
and genius, I thought, on the part of my uncle
who called all his look-alike Holsteins by name
and taught each one which slot was her own
among identical stalls in the milking stable.
It was he who could find a calf newly dropped
in the field where its mother thought it well-hidden
and it was he who could stand outside
the barn door and call toward the outer pasture
come boss to bring the herd home safe.
All this I thought to be genius
but I never heard him say so.
He just quietly did his work.

from Poets Respond
January 14, 2018


Deborah Rasmussen: “When I heard a prominent person call himself a ‘stable genius’ last week, I thought of my uncle, who was a skilled and highly respected dairy farmer. He never took credit for his accomplishments or boasted about his skills so it is a pleasure to express the wonder I felt as a child at his abilities in working with cows. A great deal of his charm was his unassuming character, a quality I still admire.”

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