THE MIGHTY MILKING CONTEST by Ray Search (Written by Walt Sehnert)

One of the more entertaining theater promotions in the 30’s involved McCook’s Mayor, the Police Chief, and a cow. Though the details leading up to the event are hazy after these many years, the end result was that the Police Chief, George Traphagen, challenged McCook’s Mayor, Don Brooks (Dr. Don Brook’s father) to a milking contest.


The event took place on the stage of the Fox Theater. A cooperating farmer loaned Ray the use of his cow for the contest, and even assisted the theater personnel in maneuvering the cow onto the theater stage. There was a door to the outside off the stage, but even so, there were several steps that had to be negotiated, which the cow was reluctant to take, and it took several men and considerable sweat to get the cow into center spotlight.


The rules of the contest stated that each man would have just three minutes to perform his milking chore. The milk in each man’s bucket would be measured and the man who had the most milk in his bucket at the end of 3 minutes would be declared the winner. The theater had posted a monetary prize, which would be awarded, to charity in the name of the Mayor or the Police Chief. .


Neither man had much experience in milking cows, but each was willing, eager to show off his milking parlor chores on the stage of the Fox—for a good cause. Both of the men were popular figures around town and enjoyed a good joke. Ray had done a good job of promoting the event so there was a full house that night to witness the “Battle of the Milk Buckets”.


After the cow was finally on the stage itself she was surprisingly docile. Ray was grateful for that. He had arranged to have two bales of hay delivered, to keep the cow busy eating, and to have cover on the stage, just in case of an accident. Unfortunately someone had stolen the bales from outside the stage door, and since “The Show Must Go On”, they were forced to do the show without the hay.


The Police Chief went first. And he seemed to get a good grip on his work. By the time his three minutes were up he had produced a goodly quantity of milk, and his backers gave him a rousing ovation for his efforts. It looked bad for Mayor Brooks’ chances to surpass his rival. But what Mayor Brooks might have lacked in skill, he made up for in showmanship. He circled the stage like a boxing champion and expressed confidence that he would be victorious.


It appeared that it was difficult for Mayor Brooks to get started. He used up at least one of his minutes trying to get comfortable and fiddled with his heavy overcoat, before he even began to milk. But once he got underway his hands fairly flew, and the milk went into his bucket in almost a steady stream. At the end of his three minutes he had produced almost twice as much milk as Police Chief, Traphagen. There was thunderous applause, which he acknowledged with great fanfare.


As Ray was awarding the prize to Mayor Brooks, Police Chief Traphagen approached the pair and proceeded to arrest Mayor Brooks. The charge, he said, was cheating in a public contest, and with a flourish he opened the Mayor’s coat, exposing a hot water bottle suspended by a cord from his neck, with a tube going down his sleeve. The Mayor had filled the bottle with milk and at the proper time had opened the valve and run the milk into his bucket. The Chief conducted the “arrest” with great dramatic effect. The audience loved it all and howled with delight. No one loved the joke anymore than the Mayor and the Chief of Police. The show (the contest and the arrest) was a huge success.


But the show was not over. The cow, which had been such a good performer throughout the contest, left her calling card. As she was leaving the stage, dousing not only the stage, but the footlights as well, and maybe a few people in the front row. Ray vowed that it was the last time he would have a cow on his stage. He never did that promotion again.