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Harwell defends milking title in Agriculture Day competition

10:10 PM, Apr 2, 2013   |    comments
Pettus Read, of Tennessee Farm Bureau, presents a bucket of Tennessee Leadership's Milking Champion for House Speaker Beth Harwell, center, next to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey at Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean
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By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may have a lot of clout around the state Capitol. But by one measure, House Speaker Beth Harwell appears to have greater pull.

For the second consecutive year, the representative from Nashville's upscale Green Hills neighborhood managed to upset Ramsey, a farm boy from rural Sullivan County, in a milk-off Tuesday between the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The event highlighted Agriculture Day, an annual event in which the Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State Fair and other farm-oriented groups set up shop in the corridors of Legislative Plaza.

Harwell went into the contest the underdog, despite having beaten Ramsey in a goat-milking contest a year ago. That event was marred by allegations that Harwell had been helped by a House member who surreptitiously poured a little extra milk in her pail. Smart-phone video confirmed those suspicions.

Emotions have remained raw, raising the stakes for this year's milk-off, which used cows. Scores of television, news and personal cameras were at the ready, as the crowd pressed against the pens.

Sitting with his knees beneath a Holstein, Ramsey appeared to settle into his task easily, milk hitting the galvanized pail steadily. Harwell struggled a bit to get started with her Brown Swiss but eventually found a rhythm.

The cows themselves appeared a bit uneasy, kicking over each leader's pail at least once.

The result seemed very much in doubt, but a judge announced that Harwell's take had been greater. Independent observation confirmed that the contest had been free of cheating.

Harwell was presented the victor's trophy - a pail, of course. She held it aloft, a look of triumph and vindication clear on her face.

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