Teacher puckers up for ‘Peanut Butter’ kiss

BRISTOL — With temperatures hovering near zero degrees, Peanut Butter’s breath sent little clouds of vapor out into the air beside the Bristol Elementary School gym Tuesday morning. The five-month-old Hereford calf from New Haven’s Cloverset Farm danced around the school’s parking lot, tossing the head upon which sat a festive little Santa’s cap.
In just a few minutes, Peanut Butter would trot through the door to the gym, eye the crowd of delighted schoolchildren, and then parade to the front of the gym for her big debut in the “Kiss the Cow” raffle at the elementary school.
The Sawyer family, dairy farmers who run Cloverset Farm, doted on the little calf. She’s like a family pet, explained Richard Sawyer, who runs the dairy along with his wife, Suzanne. Sons Joe, 12, and Tony, 14, tagged along for the morning, ready to lead little Peanut Butter in for her moment in the spotlight. Joe took hold of Peanut Butter’s halter and led her clip-clopping around the parking lot, turning circles around the rest of his family.
Inside the gym, a school assembly was winding down with a performance of “Vermont rap” by the third-graders, awards for math achievement, and a skit about nutrition performed by a gaggle of sixth-graders.
But when sixth-grader Alaisha Lucia stepped to the front of the auditorium, an anticipatory hush fell over the gymnasium. The exciting moment, a teacher told the students, had arrived.
In came Peanut Butter, wearing a red Christmas coat and her little Santa’s cap, and the students cheered and chattered away, some standing from their seats on the gymnasium floor to get a better look at the cow.
The “Kiss the Cow” raffle was dreamed up by the sixth-graders at Bristol Elementary as a way to raise money for their end-of-year celebrations. Last year, the class took a trip around Vermont, seeing various sites around the state during an expedition that was educational as well as celebratory. Plans haven’t been finalized for this year’s class yet, but it’s likely the sixth-graders will do something similar.
The students sold “ballots” for $1 a piece. Each ballot counted as a vote for an administrator, sixth-grade teacher, or teaching assistant that students wanted to see give Peanut Butter a smooch.
Lisa Lucia, Alaisha’s mother, headed up the fund-raiser.
“Given the economic times, this was a low expense for the community to help support the sixth-grade,” Lisa Lucia explained.
On Tuesday morning, Alaisha made the announcement everyone had been waiting for: The “winner” of the raffle, earning the most votes, was sixth-grade teacher Andrea Murnane. Again, the students whooped and cheered as Murnane made her way to the front of the auditorium.
“I’m only doing this once,” Murnane warned the assembled student body before plopping a quick kiss atop Peanut Butter’s head. But sure enough, in order to pose for a photograph, Murnane gamely repeated the performance a moment later, this time giving the calf’s head a good long pet. Peanut Butter thrust her nose toward the teacher fondly at this point, angling, perhaps, for another smooch.
Murnane, a good sport, was enthusiastic about the event after the kiss.
“The kids are totally excited,” she said.
That excitement reared its head again in another loud cheer when Assistant Principal Rick Beal, for the sake of an additional $10 in the sixth-graders’ kitty, planted a kiss of his own on Peanut Butter’s head. With that last minute donation, the fund-raiser brought in $533 for the sixth-grade class.
“I’m a former dairy farmer,” Beal confided after the assembly. He’s used to being around cows, he went on. Kissing a calf? No big deal.

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