Since mid-2009, Lockie Gary has lived part-time on a Marine base in Fallujah and led a series of seminars that aim to train insurgents’ widows to become milkmaids. On this hot June day, he is in a makeshift classroom in a rural technical school, addressing five quiet but curious students. Cows and humans have many of the same needs, Gary tells his students, and when cows are stressed, they give less milk. “The same things that cause you stress will stress your cows,” he says, and waits for an interpreter to translate. “What stresses you?”
An obese Iraqi man, who will himself be a future trainer of incipient milkmaids, gets the answers flowing. “Hot weather,” he says in English, mopping his neck. “Confined spaces and crowds,” says another student. A woman wilting in the heat under a full black niqab murmurs, “Car bombs.”
Gary, 65, spent a career as a ranch manager and later as a livestock reproductive specialist at the University of Florida, where he pioneered the use of a device that fits into a cow’s vagina and artificially induces estrus. He recently published “Can Dairy Cows Save Lives in a War Zone?,” the only article in the June edition of Farmer & Rancher newspaper with a disclaimer noting that identifying details have been omitted for reasons of military security. In it, he describes how the United States Marine Corps contacted Land O’Lakes, the Minnesota butter concern, seeking an expert who could teach Iraqi widows how to milk cows. The widows turned out not to be “cow people,” the Marines said, so they needed a cow person comfortable in a war zone to teach them how to make a living, and thus reduce the likelihood of their being lured into the growing corps of female suicide bombers.