In 1998, life mimicked art when Fred Tuttle, star of the 1996 film Man with a Plan—the story of a Vermont farmer who runs for Congress because he needs a high-paying job with health benefits and no experience required—ran for Senate. He won in the primary against a multimillionaire originally from Massachusetts. The most famous moment, of course, was when, in a televised debate, Tuttle asked his opponent the number of teats on a Holstein. The flatlander said six. There are, in fact, four.
Upon winning the Republican primary, Tuttle promptly endorsed Democrat Patrick Leahy, admitting that he didn’t really want to win because then he’d have to move to DC. I’ve lived in both DC and Vermont. I loved DC, truly, but I have no plans to return.
This year I went to the Washington County (NY) Fair with my sister. Alison’s a speech-language pathologist, and one of her young clients was part of a family showing cows there. I learned from them that sometimes cows don’t have four teats—occasionally they are born with extra, which are usually nonfunctional and removed. Sometimes an infection can cause a teat to become nonfunctional, and again, it would likely be removed—leaving the animal with fewer than four. (Of course, you won’t see a three-teated cow at the fair.)
Alison’s client is a great kid. At age three, she’s already got both love for the animals and a clear, objective understanding of where animals fit into their lives. When given an opportunity to name a steer the family was raising for later use, she promptly christened it Dinner (like David’s rabbit, Stew; in that case, though, it was merely a threat). Dinner will be ready in another year or so.
So, here I am, rambling about Tuttle and teats and cows and steers and even rabbits, none of which is actually an udder. I know that. I seem to have to talk around the udder, not directly about the udder. I seem unable to look directly into the light of its milk-making glory.
But U is for udder, and today I must declare what U is for, and udder is an excellent U word, no matter how you get to it.