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RYAN DENNIS

Ryan Dennis is the son of a New York dairy farmer and a literary writer whose early essays were originally published in Progressive Dairyman.

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When we first arrived, he took me to the balcony and put his arm around my shoulder. We were seven floors up, and the cars below us looked small. I think he wanted me to notice that.

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The history of agriculture in most Western nations follows the same pattern. Humans on the European continent domesticated the aurochs early on in their evolution and eventually produced the dairy cow.

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Back in my mid-20s, I dated a German girl from a rich family. Her father was appalled she was with someone not wealthy. I eventually learned that he often said, in German, I looked like a homeless person.

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It was the usual rite of a rural upbringing, and the time had come for my father and me to take part in it ourselves. When I was 11, he took me to the end of the cornfield, set up a hubcap and had me shoot at it.

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When I was in seventh grade, I picked up a book laying in the corner of a classroom called A River Runs Through It. The first paragraph was short and about a boy growing up with religion and fly fishing, and how in his family there was little distinction between the two.

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Of all the things a place can be known for – famous bands, art museums, sports teams – the small town of Geel, Belgium, is world-renowned for its mentally impaired residents. In the center of the village stands St. Dymphna’s church, supposedly containing the saint’s remains.

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