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By Staff | Feb 20, 2015

I recently attended a seminar about genomics, which, I assumed, had something to do with garden gnomes. Wrong.

Genomics, I learned, is a scientific process that uses DNA analysis to predict the traits of farm animals. It’s as if you tested the genes of your newborn child and the tester said, “Well, he’s got zero athletic DNA, so he’s never going to be a Bruce Jenner. But then again, even Bruce Jenner isn’t Bruce Jenner.”

Genomics is an extremely useful tool for dairy farmers. A snippet of hair from a calf can give the farmer a detailed picture of the animal’s bloodline, how much milk she might produce and how likely it is that she will smack the farmer’s face with a wet tail when he’s in the midst of an epic yawn.

After the seminar ended, I overheard two women chatting.

“If only we could have used genomic testing to help us choose husbands,” said one of the ladies.

“That would have been awesome,” replied the younger woman. “We could have seen if he has the Buys His Wife Lavish Presents For No Reason gene or the Is Willing To Change Smelly Diapers chromosome.”

“I would be happy if mine just didn’t have the Leaves His Dirty Underwear On The Floor variant and the Always Leaves The Toilet Seat Up gene.”

I found this disturbing, and not just because the ladies were speaking openly about finessing human genetics. I was also troubled because one of them was my wife.

I could see the ladies’ point, though. Males of many species are larger and stronger than the females. High testosterone and low brain power can be a dangerous combination, so females must choose wisely.

For instance, when I was 14 we had a Holstein bull. As with many young males, the cocktail of hormones coursing through the cranium elicited a certain level of insanity. I’m talking about the bull, not me.

The bull became increasingly ill-tempered. He would stand in the middle of the cattle yard and bellow, his slobbery tongue hanging nearly to the ground, his eyes bulging crazily.

And no, this did not in any way resemble me that summer when I took a stroll down our local bikini beach.

The bull would paw the dirt, his dinner plate-sized hooves lofting fountains of earth skyward. I don’t speak Holstein, but it’s clear that he was saying, “I’m the biggest badass in this cattle yard and you’d best leave my girls alone.”

He would have gotten no argument from us except that we had to milk his girls twice a day. His need to control the cows and our need to milk them led to some heart-pounding differences of opinion.

One summer afternoon, the cows were in the pasture and Dad decided that it would be safest to fetch them with the pickup. We motored out to the pasture and began to shoo the bossies toward the barn.

The bull found this deeply insulting. He trotted about and bellowed demonically as he strove keep his girls from obeying our commands.

Dad suggested that he could bring in the main part of the herd with the pickup while I rounded up the stragglers on foot. My macho, hormone-addled brain deemed this a brilliant plan.

And the plan worked wonderfully – until it didn’t.

The bull, frustrated by imperturbable pickup, soon espied me. Blobs of slobber flying, the infuriated bovine bellowed and charged. Despite his extremely over-muscled build, he moved with remarkable agility.

But there was little time to admire the bull’s athletic prowess. With a metric ton of enraged beef thundering toward me, I did the only sensible thing: I got down on all fours and began to eat grass, hoping to look enough like a cow to fool him.

No, that’s not true. I ran. I ran as if my very life depended upon it. Which it did.

Every few yards, I glanced over my shoulder to see if he was still in pursuit. Yup. I dodged and feinted like a running back trying avoid being crushed by an exceptionally large, thoroughly insane, cowhide-clad defensive lineman.

I finally reached the fence and vaulted over it. No one was more surprised than I when I cleared the top barbwire. The fear of being mushed is an extremely powerful motivator; perhaps Holstein bulls could be used to boost athletes’ performance at the next Olympics.

So I could empathize with the ladies when they spoke of deselecting unfavorable characteristics. I’d better go now as I have this sudden urge to buy some flowers for my wife. And that underwear isn’t going to pick up itself.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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