Little Calf

The snow falls gently outside the barn. Inside, the animals are safe and dry. It is nighttime on the farm.

In the dim light, hens cluck and settle down on their nests high up in the rafters. The horses close their eyes and give a final whinny.

In a far corner, a lantern glows like a firefly in the growing darkness. A young boy watches Mother Cow who is lying quietly on her side in the hay. It is time for her baby to be born.

Soon a sleepy calf lies beside Mother Cow. The boy names the calf Daisy. The calf sits quietly as Mother Cow cleans Daisy’s wet fur.

Daisy is only fifteen minutes old. The boy watches as Mother Cow gives Daisy a gentle nudge. It is time for Daisy to stand. The little calf is still weak and her legs want to move in all different directions. When she finally stands, her legs are very wobbly.

Now that she is standing, Daisy wants to eat. She is hungry. She needs to drink her mother’s milk to grow stronger. Daisy moves a little closer to her mother’s side.

Mother Cow can give milk now that Daisy has been born. Daisy finds Mother Cow’s udder and begins to drink the nourishing milk. When Daisy is a little older, the boy opens the barn door. Daisy steps into the warm spring air for the first time. She blinks her eyes at the bright sun. A dragonfly flits in front of her nose. Daisy is not sure what to make of this odd creature. She shakes her head and watches as it flies off into the sky.

Daisy hears a noise and turns to look. It’s a mother pig and her babies. As Daisy walks near the fence, she sniffs the white flowers. Then she tries to reach the grass just beyond the wooden posts. She squeezes herself under the fence, but she is too big.

Daisy is hungry again. Now that she is older, she doesn’t drink Mother Cow’s milk. She drinks powdered milk and water. The boy brings it to her twice a day. He puts it in an oversized bottle, and she drinks out of it.

The boy loves Daisy. Each day, between chores, he comes to pet her. The boy wants to take Daisy to the county fair. He tells Daisy that she will be the best calf at the fair.

But they must work hard. There are many things for Daisy to learn. She has to learn how to stay calm around people and lots of noise. Daisy likes to walk with the boy. But not today. She wants to stay in the barn. The boy knows it is important to practice every day. He pulls on the rope to get her to move. The boy leads Daisy out of the barnyard. 

They walk to a nearby field. “Stop,” he tells her, but Daisy keeps moving. She wants to look at a rabbit peeking out from a bush. The boy leans against her and pushes hard. Finally she stops.

“Now start,” he calls, but Daisy wants to stay. She likes chewing on the tender grass and standing under the shady trees. The boy digs his heels into the ground. He pulls on the reins with all his might. At the fair, Daisy needs to look her very best. Her coat must be clean and her hair cut just right. The boy takes Daisy out into the pen. It’s time to practice giving her a bath. Daisy likes the cool water squirting out of the hose. She stands quietly while the boy scrubs her with a brush.

The boy dries off Daisy and steps back to admire her nice clean coat. All that’s left now is Daisy’s haircut. The boy brings out the clippers. Daisy stands very still while the boy trims her coat and tail. The boy is sure that Daisy is the best-looking calf ever!

The fair is a big, colorful, noisy place. Smiling people are walking everywhere. Children ride the Ferris wheel and play games to win prizes. People eat corn on the cob and cotton candy. Others look at the prize-winning pies that people have made or the food they have grown.

Daisy is staying in a big barn where there are many calves and cows. Daisy and the boy rush to the barn so they can prepare for the big competition.

In the barn next to Daisy’s barn, the pigs oink as boys and girls get ready for the competition, too. The horses neigh in the next barn. Everyone is so nervous. Daisy moves restlessly in her stall. She can tell something is different today. Boys and girls rush all around to get their calves ready for the judging.

Daisy must look her best today. The boy brings out the combs, brushes, and shampoo. He hooks up the water hose and sets out the dryer.

First, Daisy gets a bath. Then the boy brushes Daisy until her clean coat shines brightly. Then he clips some of her hair around her head. Finally, he fluffs up the hair on Daisy’s tail. Now she is ready for her new leather halter. And it is time for the competition to begin! 

The boy leads Daisy into the ring. She follows the boy just as he has taught her. When he stops, she stops. When he says turn, she turns.

Daisy and the other calves line up now, nose to tail. The judges watch Daisy to see how well she minds the boy. The judges walk past the calves and look at each one carefully.

Now the calves are side by side. With the boy’s help, Daisy carefully lines up her feet. They stand proudly as the judges check Daisy’s ears, lift her tail, and feel her coat. Now they walk around the ring one last time. The judges decide who is the best. It’s Daisy! Daisy is back in her stall in the barn. People stop to look at the prize-winning calf. The boy talks to them and tells them how proud he is of Daisy. She is the blue-ribbon calf, they all say, just like the boy knew all along.

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