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Best of the Land of 10,000 Stories: 'Cow lady' has the last laugh

An update on a favorite story from 2011 featured in Boyd Huppert's "Land of 10,000 Stories" series.

LAFAYETTE, Minn. — Boyd Huppert has met hundreds of fascinating characters traveling the Land of 10,000 Stories.

One of the favorites: Ruth Klossner, and her "moo-seum" that Boyd first visited a decade ago.

Klossner, a newspaper editor, makes no secret of her passion for agriculture.

"Because this is a farming community, I guess we probably emphasize the farm news," she said.

Farming can still stop Ruth in her tracks.

"This one happened to be in a store window, and I'm going by the window, and I go, whoa, I saw some cows," Klossner said.

And it wasn't like she hadn't seen cows before.

"My license plate on my car says 'cow lady,'" she said.

Her plates say it. Her office at the newspaper screams it. And then, Ruth goes home.

"Welcome to the 'moo-seum,' home of 13,822 cow items."

Credit: KARE 11
Ruth Klossner, also known as the "cow lady," shows off her cow collection when KARE 11's Boyd Huppert first visited her in 2011.

It would be one thing for Ruth Klossner to plaster a hallway with her cow collection, but she's allowed it to spill over into her home office, the living room, the kitchen; essentially, the whole house!

"Pictures, teapots, canister sets. Things like that here," she explained. "I just love cows."

You'll find cows in the spare bedroom and the master bedroom, including the clothes closet and adjoining bath. 

But some prized possessions in the basement may be a fitting place to get to the root of Ruth's obsession.

"National Holstein Girl, 1967," she said, adding that the honor scored her a free trip to a national convention, after she'd previously won a 4-H award for being being the Nicollet County Holstein Girl in 1964.

Ruth knew cows before most us learned our ABC's. By high school, she was old enough to formally study them.

"I went to the principal, and said I want to take an ag class," Klossner recalled. "'Girls can't do that.' I was not even allowed to take an ag class in high school."'

She was not allowed to join the school's FFA chapter either. The National Future Farmer's of America prohibited girls until 1969.

When Ruth decided to study dairy husbandry at the University of Minnesota, her advisor pulled her aside and warned her, as a woman she would never find a job.  

"It was very frustrating because, I really, really wanted to go into agriculture.  And would have if I would have had a choice," she said.

Instead Ruth studied home economics, a subject she disliked, but that allowed her to become an extension agent.  

Eventually she became a reporter and editor, where years later she would cover the accomplishments of Megan Herberg, a local who scored both a U of M animal science degree and a job at Holstein World Magazine.

"I've watched her grow up and I've seen her do so many of the things that I wish I could have done at her age, but the doors weren't open to us then. She can do them now," Klossner said.

Ruth could be bitter, but she's chosen not to be.

Told to steer clear of a man's world, Ruth Klossner built the biggest herd of them all.

"I've made my own world," Ruth said of her 'moo-seum.' "It's full of cows, I've made my own world."

Since Ruth's story first aired in 2011, she made it official. Ruth earned a place in the Guinness Book of World records, certifying her collection of cow items as the largest in the world.

Her collection has grown to nearly 20,000 items.  

Ruth retired from the newspaper but stays active in agriculture, including taking pictures of 4-H members and their animals at the Minnesota State Fair.

Ruth was also honored at the 2021 fair for her years of service to the dairy industry.    

Revisit your favorite moments from Boyd Huppert’s Land of 10,000 Stories by subscribing to Land of 10,000 Stories: The Complete Collection on YouTube.