This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.
Thomas Kyle-Milward wears a tie to work, but deep down he’s still a farm boy.
Kyle-Milward grew up on a small family farm outside Portland, Oregon. The farm had its own rhythm: morning and evening chores, planting, harvest. And every year — the Columbia County Fair.
Kyle-Milward is building a life in urban Tacoma now, but he still makes it out for the fair each summer. And, as he’ll proudly share, he brings along bragging rights as the 2014 wild cow milking champion.
The “sport,” which he hesitates to call it, involves milking a non-dairy cow that isn’t used to human touch — “and really doesn’t want to get milked,” Kyle-Milward says.
When the gate opens, it’s on.
“A crack of light has just been shown to that cow, and it’s going to try and get to wherever it thinks it can get away from the noise, the confined space and — suddenly — three pesky humans beings who are attached to it,” he said.
Kyle-Milward practically blacked out from adrenaline the year he won. His team, Milk and Scotch, got the cow restrained quickly.
“I’m trying to do two things," he said. "I’m trying to get the cow to let down her milk and I’m also trying to position my head in such a way that she can’t knee me in the face.”
It involves making a fist, grabbing a teat, and throwing up a fist to replicate a cow headbutting the bag. When there’s enough milk to pour out, teams sprint to the finish line across the arena.
“I don’t really remember a whole lot afterward,” Kyle-Milward said of winning the title, as he calls it. But celebrating with the crowd afterward is crystal clear.
“That’s going to be a favorite memory of mine for a really, really long time,” he said.
Kyle-Milward is getting married soon, and he wants his future children to experience life outside a city just as he did.
“For me it was a foundational piece of my adulthood,” he said. “I think it makes you look at things a little differently. It absolutely makes you appreciate things differently.”
Thomas Kyle-Milward is a Tacoma-based journalist. Listen to his full conversation with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer above.