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Milk-off competitors caught in squeeze play

Humidity hung like wet towels in the Albert A. Barthle Pavilion. It was so hot, the cows seemed to sweat.

But that didn't dampen the spirits of spectators and participants gathered to celebrate the "milk-off" competition at the 45th annual Pasco County Fair.

The milk didn't come easy, though. It's difficult to say who had the harder time: the competitors or the two milk cows, one of which vehemently protested.

The conscientious objector, a meaty cow from Rolling Hills Dairy in Dade City, went so far as to buck and kick across the platform like a maddened stallion.

Its fury was turned toward an observer who was forced to dive through the railing in flight. The observer _ okay, this reporter _ escaped with a broken shoe and some hurt feelings.

That same cow later tried to stomp one of the competitors as he tugged at her milk sack.

Before the event began, the milkers _ most of them novices _ lined a railing, sharing notes about the best way to fill their bottles and cups.

David Krusey, 22, an assistant manager at Scotty's, went in with one tip: "Squeeze and aim."

He stood next to Walter Capehart, office manager for Barnett Bank, who did a little research on the subject.

"I have talked to some people about how to do it," said Capehart, 38. "I've been told you squeeze at the top, then squeeze at the bottom."

When it was over, the grand champion _ the person who squeezed the most milk _ was honorary Land O'Lakes mayor Nellie Sutton, herself a first-time cow milker.

She and the winners of each division waltzed away with stunning little trophies topped by, of course, a cow.

Said Sutton, assistant vice president of Lake State Bank, "I'll take it to work and display it on my desk."

The fair continues through Sunday. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today through Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

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