The third annual Celebrity Dairy Milking took place in an oddly sweet-smelling arena at the rear of Reliant Center yesterday afternoon, as a lineup of bored-looking goats patiently allowed Houston's boldest media personalities to awkwardly yank on their teats for half an hour. I learned a lot in the course of the milking contest, starting with two things: Goats' milk smells like absolutely nothing at all, and you should never underestimate a weatherman.
As a competitor, I thought milking a goat would be quite straightforward: Pinch the teat at the top, pull downwards, fill bucket with gushing streams of milky goodness. In reality, when you're halfway underneath a bony lady goat (the goats aren't starving; they're just naturally bony and angular), yanking feebly and fruitlessly at her soft, dark gray teats, you start to feel incredibly self-conscious. Not of the fact that you're bent over at an awkward angle in front of hundreds of people, making a fool out of yourself as you fail to get any milk out of the goat. But of the fact that this poor creature is quietly and calmly allowing you to tug and prod at it until you achieve your desired result -- showing off an Ozarka bottle half-filled with frothy goat's milk. In short, you start to feel like a jerk.
All of that changes when you finally start to get the milk flowing, however. All at once, there is an incredible harmony -- you feel in step with the animal, at one with nature. You and the goat (we called our goat Jezebel) are achieving something together. It's miraculous! You find your rhythym, your pace. The bottom of your bucket is finally starting to gloss over with the sheen of the pale, creamy milk. And then the buzzer startles you -- it's over.
And you have very little to show for it. But that's okay. We can't all be winners. In fact, most of the 23 competitors yesterday didn't even come close to the gallon yield that the first and second place winners milked out of their goats.
For the third year in a row, longtime radio personality Outlaw Dave was near the top of the pack, followed closely by Sunny 99.1 DJ Dana Tyson. But for as much milk as these two squeezed out, neither of them could beat the dark horse that was Channel 39 meteorologist Keith Monahan.
Monahan and his goat, whom he fondly named Snickerdoodle, produced so much milk that there was still liquid left in the bucket when the judges came around to measure the results after the final heat. It was the weatherman's third year to compete, and he was most proud of the fact that he finally beat two previous milking champions, the runner-up Outlaw Dave and third place Dana Tyson.
Despite the fact that I didn't come anywhere close to obtaining a gallon of milk from my goat, I was consoled by seeing that I'd milked just as much as my neighboring goat milker -- Kyrie O'Connor from the Houston Chronicle -- and had milked far more than the "sip" that Mix 96.5 DJ Maria Todd referred to as she looked glumly at her results. She quickly launched into peals of laughter at seeing her trophy for the afternoon, however: a pile of Raisinets on some green paper.
Sadly, I didn't get to take the goat milk home yesterday. But I gave it one final sniff (still no scent!) and petted Jezebel, who barely regarded me, before heading out for the afternoon. One thing is for certain now, though: I have a much deeper appreciation for the luxury that is goat cheese than ever before.
For more photos from the competition, check out our slideshow.