A dirty, cold, smelly dairy barn in the dead of winter may not seem like a very romantic place to most people, but to Casey Catlin and Jennifer Michel, there could be no more perfect setting in which to profess one’s undying love.
Michel said Catlin, who milks about 60 Holstein cows and raises about 26 head of beef cattle near Comstock in Polk County, took her completely by surprise on the evening of Jan. 31 when he called her to come out to the barn to look at a calf that seemed to have something wrong with it; the calf kept picking at something on its chest, he told her.
Michel had recently finished her shift at the Almena Feed and Seed Store and said she wasn’t especially looking forward to getting bundled up in her coveralls and boots and making the drive to the farm in blowing snow, but she made the trek, nonetheless, to check out the supposedly afflicted animal. She was met at the farm by Catlin’s mom, Lori, who was in on her son’s surprise.
“I got to the farm, and he’s standing in the walkway with this calf,” Michel said.
Catlin asked her to remove the calf jacket, and tucked inside, she discovered a big red bow and a cardboard sign with the words “Marry me?” handwritten on it. Right there, between the rows of freshly milked bovines, he got down on one knee and flipped open a ring box to reveal a bright, sparkling engagement ring.
“She knew right away something was up,” Catlin said, but “I had to tell her two times.”
Catlin did his homework before popping the question, asking Michel’s dad for his blessing and sneaking a ring out of Michel’s dresser drawer to bring to the jeweler to aid in sizing her engagement ring. Despite this forethought, he said, the ring is too big and will require resizing.
As for the heifer calf he picked to assist him, it was born the morning of the proposal and selected as ring bearer because its mother is one of his favorite registered Red and White cows. He said he had told Michel about the calf’s arrival earlier in the day because they both had been excited about this particular calf being born.
“I thought the calf was a really good-looking calf and this would be a unique way to do it,” he said. “I kind of wanted to do it pretty quick so she didn’t find out or figure it out.”
Michel said her parents, Mark and Emily Michel of Lake Mills, were “overjoyed” to hear the news.
Because of their shared love for dairy farming, Michel said, she’ll always remember being proposed to in the barn aisle. Catlin has been working full time on his family’s farm since last spring and took ownership of it on Jan. 1. Michel was raised on a 65-cow dairy farm near Lake Mills and moved to northwestern Wisconsin last September.
The pair met while students at UW-River Falls, and both graduated last May — Catlin with a degree in agricultural business and Michel with an animal science degree. Although they first crossed paths as freshmen and bumped into each other from time to time after that, it wasn’t until their senior year that Catlin finally worked up the courage to ask Michel out for a date. They have dated for more than a year.
One of the best parts about the proposal, according to Michel, is that the birth of this calf ended Catlin’s long streak of bull calves.
“He’s been having the darnedest luck,” she said, “but this is a heifer, so we get to keep her.”
The couple plan to be married sometime in 2019. No date has been set, but not surprising to those who know them, the nuptials will include some kind of farm theme, according to Michel.
As for that special calf, she said, they’re still pondering the perfect name (Cupid, perhaps?), and it’s “most definitely” getting some extra love itself these days in the barn.