Last Saturday I got a call no one could ever anticipate. Dakota, a young man who I grew up at the Altamont fair showing cows with, had drowned swimming in the farm pond with his younger brother. Words cannot describe the shock, pain and horror that came with it. Dakota was one of those boys who everyone had loved since day one. He was always smiling, and more than willing to pitch in and help pick beds, walk cows, or anything else that needed doing if he wasn't busy.
If you have ever shown cows, you know the barn is like your extra family. You may only see each other one or two weeks out of the year, but as soon as the morning truck in starts on Monday, you are back to being so close as to be inseparable. The last year might never have passed as friendships pick up right where they left off Sunday night when you hugged and said see you in August.
Show weeks are filled with joking and laughter. Sharing the joy of that special new calf, or commiserating on the loss of a treasured cow all loved to old age. No matter how far apart you are, that week is like coming home again.
This year the barn's jollity and cherished together again time was changed to quiet and melancholy. Shared memories about a young life lost, radios didn't blare out country stations like usual, children didn't run and play, instead all sat and tried to enjoy despite knowing that nothing would be the same again.
So Dakota, here is to you, you are forever in our hearts, and will never be forgotten. And we'll always wonder, who you'd be today.
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