Happy birthday, Wyatt!

How can it be that you’re already a year old? Last year we waited and waited for your arrival. You were in no hurry and I believe your momma may have thought you were going to stay put forever! Alas, just as your big sister, Grandpa, Uncle Chris & Aunt Kailey and I were sitting down to supper, we got the text that you were here.

You remind me so much of your daddy….from your looks to your actions and everything in between. You were such a momma’s boy as a little baby and put us through our paces many Wednesday nights. You are the reason we started putting Gentle Baby essential oils in the bath water for you and your sister….and why Papa calls it Angry Baby. It had little effect on you being upset that your momma had gone to Bible study without you. You still light up like no other when your momma walks in the room but now you are much more social.

You eat like a grown man already. Last week when we had brisket, you shoveled it in. Rarely do you find a food that you don’t like. But that wasn’t always the case. When we tried to give you baby food that had little chunks in it, you weren’t a fan. I’ll admit, I never tasted it so it may not have been good tasting. But now, since you’ve been eating real food, as long as you can catch it, you eat it.

Your smile melts hearts everywhere. The way you grin and tuck your head to the side make you a bit irresistible. You flirt relentlessly with any female. Giving high fives and your wonky little Lane Frost wave make you everyone’s best friend.

You absolutely LOVE dogs. You’ve been more cautious of the cattle than your sister, but seem to warming up to them now that you’re in the pen with them more often. You are always looking for Abby, or Cope or Sadie. You do not like when Baby Cow tries to suck on your hand or arm.

Your favorite things of all involve things that go……the mule, the 4 wheeler, cars, trucks, tractors. Anything with wheels has your attention. Watching how excited you get when we ask if you want to drive brings us nearly as much joy.

You may just have a stubborn streak with a bit of a temper. We all know when you’re mad. You wear your emotions on your face quite plainly…..poker likely won’t be your best game. You strive for perfection in what you do. Watching you learn to walk has been quite a throw back. From taking one or two steps to walking across the gym at church in short order is evidence that you had the ability, you just had to believe in yourself.

Wyatt, we are so thankful to have gotten to make so many memories with you over the last year and look forward to a lifetime of them. You are the blessing we didn’t know we needed, but are so very thankful for. Love you more than you can imagine.

Love always,

Grandma and Papa

We’re having a “Fairly” good time…

It’s county fair season around our area this month. We’ll have been to 8 different fairs in 3 weeks after Saturday night and we’re starting to wear down now. We’ve had one steer in particular that has performed exceptionally this year. He’s been the Champion Steer at 6 shows in a row now. How amazing is that? We’ve watched experienced showmen and beginning showmen grow and develop in their skills. We’ve watched young people develop in their personal lives exponentially.

Last Friday we were at a show and one of our show kids looked at Mike and said, “You’re the best fitters in the WORLD!” Mike laughed. But to that young man, at that moment, getting to work with someone he believes in and trust in getting his calf ready for the show, he was the best fitter in the world. Mike takes time in the midst of busyness to teach and encourage youth. There are a lot of very talented fitters in the cattle world. My husband and our sons are EXTREMELY talented and work hard at it. But the thing is, they each had to learn from someone else. Mike went to shows as a youth and watched the fitters, taking in everything they were doing, all the tools they were using and the products they were using. At the bigger shows, you’ll still find him watching the fitters to learn new tricks of the trade. Kids, that’s the lesson here….NEVER stop learning and never stop challenging yourselves.

You all know I’m the picture lady now. I’ve enjoyed learning a bit about livestock photography over the years. And as our calves have improved, so have my skills in getting the best pictures of them. We all know I’m not allowed to be part of the clipping/fitting team unless we’re in dire straights. That’s not my talent. I’m the photography and design person.

Our kids – now grown, married men – their wives and kids are our behind the scenes crew. Wanna know why our calves don’t freak out at the sign of little kids? Their names are Avery & Wyatt. Those two are always around the cattle so the calves don’t think they’re unusual. We work with the calves for several weeks before the sale. They don’t know who all to expect in the pen, so they quickly learn to accept anyone. Avery still calls the calves we sold last fall “Baby Cow”. Yes, honey, they’re baby cows. They just weigh 1200 to 1400 pounds now.

I had an interview last week with our local paper. You can see the article here. We visited a lot about faith, family and farming. To me, we cannot separate those three if we’re going to talk about my life at all. Honestly, that’s the order I place them in also. My faith is first. Without my relationship with Christ, I am nothing, I have nothing. Period. End of discussion. He strengthens me, He leads me, He teaches me and most importantly, He loves me. Next up is my family. Outside of my relationship with Christ, my family is the most important relationships I have. My husband and I have now been together for 31 years! Our parents, our children, our grandchildren, our siblings, our nieces and nephews….these are the people that make life worth any struggles that may come our way. They have our heart. Now, this is where we kind of blur the line between family and farm. Some of our show kids have crossed over into our family. We have a few kids that have become family….through the good times and bad. We’re thankful for the show calf world that has allowed us those relationships. Lastly, I can’t imagine not living, working and loving life on a farm. There are so many lessons that are only learned on a farm. I heard a song on the radio yesterday by Jason Aldean & Luke Bryan entitled “The Only Way I Know“. That song speaks to the lessons I learned growing up on a farm.

“Well, I grew up in one of them old farm towns

Where they hit it hard ’til the sun goes down

Nobody really seemed to care

That we were living in the middle of nowhere

We just figured that’s how it was

And everybody else was just like us

Soaking in the rain baking in the sun

Don’t quit ’til the job gets done

That’s the only way I know

Don’t stop ’til everything’s gone

Straight ahead, never turn round

Don’t back up, don’t back down

Full throttle, wide open

You get tired and you don’t show it

Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more

That’s the only way I know”

So, what does all this mean to you? I want you to take a moment and count the blessings in your life. I want you to reflect on what you’ve learned and what you want to learn still. Then, I want you to go out and live life, learning along the way. Don’t think you have to be in a classroom to be learning. Make it a lifelong habit.

Until the next time,

Melinda

Livestock Show Directors

You’ve signed up for one of the most thankless jobs there are. If you have kids showing, you’re doing it in order to help them win. If you don’t people wonder how invested you are. You might make one person happy each year. You likely have a committee you work with. Hopefully they stand behind the decisions your committee has made and support your enforcement of those decisions.

Mike and I were in charge of the Beef Committee for several years at the Audrain County Fair. That experience was good for us. We learned A LOT. We have been accused of paying off judges, hiring friends as judges, not fairly breaking classes, on and on. We were told we were being unfair expecting kids to attend beef meetings. We were unfair for making a child send their animal home because the steer could not be controlled. It’s ok, we could take it and see it for what it was. But could I offer you a few words of advice? You can take them or leave them…..they’re basically just observations from our experiences.

1. Don’t make rules you’re not willing to enforce and get rid of the rules if they don’t have consequences. People, in general, look for loop holes. Think about that when you’re putting a rule in the book. If an exhibitor does X, then Y is the consequence. Period. If it’s black and white it’s a whole lot easier to enforce. If the rules state no warts, you kick every calf out with warts. The rule is the rule. If you say the calf must be weighed in at the county weigh in for the calf to sell in the premium sale, you have to enforce it – even if the calf dies the next week and the kid gets a new calf.

2. You can’t grow your show or beef program by limiting the competition at your own show. Excluding kids from other counties limits competition. It breeds complacency. Yes, your county kids will take home the hardware, but what does that mean? How much more exciting is it to compete and win against 20 steers instead of 10? How much more does all that hard work pay off that the kids have put in all year? When our boys were younger they were part of a competitive 4-H club when it came to showing cattle. At least 6 of the 12 or 13 members showed at a Jr. National show. They were competing against some of the best in the Angus, Charolais, Chi, Maine and Salers breeds. We didn’t rely on the county show offering competition, we sought it out on bigger stages. But when we had an open junior show with 120 head showing in our county, it got some attention for our county. We were considered a big time show. And the kids got to experience some good competition and learn from others.

3. Have thick skin. Like I said before, people will accuse you of cheating, not having the kids’ best interest at heart, being unfair or judgemental. Once a standard is set, all should be expected to adhere to that standard – adults and youth alike. Not all, and often many, of your choices won’t be popular. As long as they are in the best interest of the kids and the program, stick to your guns.

4. Don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. Calling a show a “no fit” show when you know people have started already shouldn’t be allowed. Changing who can compete in the pre show contests based on who showed up, isn’t cool either. You meet with your committee months in advance to set the rules for the year. Adding or eliminating classes AFTER ownership deadlines to limit competition is not fair. The rules 6 months in advance should be the rules the day of the show.

5. Focus on the good so you don’t burn out too fast. Focus on the thank you from the first year kid (no matter their age) who tells you how much they loved this project. Focus on the parent who tells you how his kid was headed for trouble until he had this calf to work with. Focus on the grandparents who show up to this one show a year to get a better understanding of what makes the kids tick. Focus on the positive light this show can shed on production agriculture. Focus on the fact that some of these kids will forever be involved in agriculture because of this opportunity.

Thank you so much for taking on the task of running a show. We do know how much work it takes. Planning meetings, ordering prizes, getting sponsors, weigh in day in the spring and then at the fair, breaking classes, checking breed papers, organizing classes, getting good ring help and line up help and an announcer. Thank you for all of it.

Reminders for County Fair Parents

You’ve put a lot of time and money and energy into your child’s livestock project, haven’t you? Even if your kid is old enough and responsible enough to do MOST of the work, you’re likely still very invested in this project. Can I offer just a few bits of advice as we enter fair season? Some of it I’m ashamed to admit I’ve learned firsthand.

1. Be thankful for the opportunity for your kid to show. Many counties have closed their shows to anyone not in their county or a neighboring county. Sometimes these rules are put in place due to financial constraints, sometimes because the rules are put in place to make sure the county kids win. The kids from our county are allowed to show at no less than half a dozen county fairs in the next few weeks. I cannot express to you how awesome I think this is. Your child will learn something every time they work with that calf and every time they step into the ring. Confidence, work ethic, leadership, communication and determination are just a few lessons I believe our sons learned from showing. Thank those in charge of the shows…..the fair board members, committee chairs and 4-H and FFA leaders. They can’t guess at what you’re thankful for unless you tell them…..especially if you’re not from the county where the show is hosted.

2. Remember, this is your CHILD’s project – not yours. The lessons learned have to be theirs. Yes, some kids show because their parents want them to and some show because their parents bribe them to. NOT a good plan. If your child doesn’t want to show, find what it is that makes them tick. They will be forever grateful for your support. On the other side of this statement, you have to allow your child control over this project. They need to feed and care for the animal. They need you to teach them the cost of the project. They need to understand how their participation in production agriculture matters. Don’t do all the work for them.

3. Be a good sport at the shows. Champion or last in class, shake hands and congratulate others. Frustrated at the results or the lack of enforcement of rules? Keep your mouth shut until you get back to the safety of your truck or trailer. I learned this one myself. I lost my cool at a show one year. I was not the good show mom. I was ranting and raving ringside all the way back to the trailer. My husband had to look at me and say, “Just get back to the trailer!” I embarrassed my sons, my husband and myself. It was early enough in their show careers that I have had time to redeem my reputation a bit. Don’t be THAT mom or dad. Trust me, I still can reply the scene in my mind and it’s not a pretty one. There are politics in showing. I know that, you know that, and our kids know that. There are often politics at work in general life as well. Maybe we’re to learn in the ring and at ringside life lessons.

4. Don’t be a sideline coach. When the boys were young, we practiced showmanship A LOT!!! And that practice occurred at home. We would watch parents stand ringside doing what they could to get their children’s attention to tell them how to show their calves. We always told our boys that the idea was to show off the calf, not draw attention to yourself. When parents or other helpers coach from the gate, they’re drawing attention to themselves and their showman.

5. The most expensive calf isn’t always the best and the best lessons are often learned leading the calf who isn’t the easy champion. You need to encourage your child to do the best they can. Do they need to research feeds? Showmanship techniques? Fitting techniques? Encouraging improvement is your goal as a parent. “Did you notice he wasn’t putting weight on that foot? Maybe in the next drive you can put pressure on his foot to get him to stand correctly.” Instead of “Don’t you know how to set up that calf?”

We’ve been blessed to raise our boys showing cattle. They’ve learned some valuable life lessons and a lot of confidence in their decision making skills through it. No matter if it was learning lessons in the barn or in the show ring, they gained life skills. And friends. Most activities don’t come with the amount of family involvement that livestock shows afford us. Make that a good thing for your family. It was a very good thing for ours.

A few reminders for county fair season

This week marks the beginning of county fair season here in central Missouri. We have steers going to four shows this week alone. So, I wanted to type out a few reminders for our show kids, their families and those in charge of the shows. It’s just a few things we’ve learned over the years from both sides of the gate.

Show kids – So here’s the deal…..you bought your calves last fall and have been feeding them and hopefully, working with them since you took them home. We’re blessed to work with some truly amazing young people. Thank you for taking care of our calves this year and trusting us that we’ll be by to help you out with just a phone call. Now, the lessons you need to know before your show…..

1. The adults in charge of your show have put a lot of time and energy into getting it ready for you. They’re arranged for the judge, prizes, check in and weigh in, announcer, ring help and sale help. PLEASE take a minute to thank them in some way. Do NOT grumble and complain about how any of the details have been handled unless you and/or your parents are willing to step up and help out with it in the future.

2. Your parents have helped you out. Did they pick up feed for you? Pay for the calf, the feed, the electricity for the fans on your calf? Have they worked with you in looking at your calf honestly and trying to figure out how to solve any problems with him/her? Have they worked with you on showmanship? Have they simply encouraged you? This is not a cheap or quick hobby. You can’t just sign on for a week or two or just the purchase price of the calf. Please thank your parents. We all know tempers can flare on show day as the stress goes up. Try not to be a turd. Be thankful for the sandwich they brought to the show for you and the bottled water. Be thankful for the love, patience and endurance they exhibit during county fair season.

3. The judge. Yes, he or she has been paid something to come share his/her opinion of your calves. BUT, likely the amount paid isn’t much once you consider their travel expenses to get to the show. Please show them some respect, even if you don’t agree with them. Shake their hand and thank them for judging. Don’t be a part of the crow that grumbles and complains ringside about them. You don’t have to agree with them. Just listen to what they have to say and then take a closer look at your calf. Is it true? Did they happen to see your calf at a lazy moment? We know the calves will shift their weight, move a bit, slouch in the backs at times. And if that’s the moment the judge first sees the calf, it’s hard to overcome that. Not your fault and not the calf’s fault and certainly not the judge’s fault. Just think about what he/she says and use it for future shows. Some things you cannot change, but some can look different with some showmanship techniques.

4. Your fellow exhibitors. I know, I know. There is almost always that one exhibitor at your fair that just gets under your skin. Here’s the life lesson. There’s always going to be someone like that in your life. Smile, shake their hand, congratulate them on their success or console them on their troubles. It shows more about your character than theirs. Some of our sons best friends growing up were their toughest competitors in the show ring. Honor one another.

So there’s my advice to our show kids. Oh, and one last thing….have fun with it. Don’t stress yourself and those around you out to the point the show isn’t even fun anymore. Good luck and keep talking to us.

I’ll work on the posts to the parents and adults in charge soon.

Opening the Gate for Little Blue Eyes and Freckles

“Blue eyes and freckles ‘neath a white cowboy hat, ” begins the song by Chris LeDoux. We’ve listened to a lot of Chris over the years and I think our boys, and Chris especially, wanted to live out the words to his songs. Songs about being a cowboy (both rodeo and real life), songs about love and faith and family. And a lot of that, Chris has lived out. The last stanza of Blue Eyes and Freckles, talks about opening the gate and letting him go. Yesterday was that day.

Yesterday, Chris married the girl of his dreams. True, he only started dating her a year ago, but she has all the qualities he’s been looking for: a strong faith, kind heart, love for family and kids, love of animals and yes, she’s even developing a passion for agriculture. Chris, your dad and I were talking about how we always assumed you and your brother would marry someone you met showing cattle. Instead, you both ended up marrying women you met serving God. How much better are the plans He has for our lives? I remember when Ben and Peggy brought your small group to our house while Brittany was on bed rest with the girls. I saw the shy way Kailey looked your way. Fast forward a year or so later when you all began texting. Jesse might have harassed you a little but we all knew where this texting would lead. Brittany and I may have decided to speed you up a bit by bringing Kailey to the show the day after your first date.

“There’s a cute little filly she lives right next door

She’d like to brand him but he’s no green horn

She’ll offer him candy but he knows her game

He’ll take what she gives him then be on his way.”

We always knew the girl of your dreams would fall for you when she saw your heart for kids. And once Kailey passed the Avery test, she was a shoe in. I so love watching the two of you interact with Avery and Wyatt. They love their “Unca Kiss and Aunt Kayee”. Know that some day, you will have children that are loved and cherished beyond belief. I love that the two of you share similar parenting ideas. You both have a great sense of adventure and yet hold the kiddos in your life to certain expectations.

“Well mama just look how our little boy’s grown

He’ll soon be a man with a mind of his own

And I know the hardest thing we’ll ever do

Is take down the fences and just turn him loose.

Blue eyes and freckles and faded blue jeans.

He’s grown up and ready to follow his dreams.

He was our little cowboy just yesterday,

Now the fences can’t hold him and he’ll ride away.”

Know that the coming year will be a time of transition for both of you. Learning to live with, depend upon and completely trust another person is harder than you might realize. I pray that you and Kailey remember to pray together, communicate well and love deeply. Never give up on one another. God placed the two of you together for a lifetime…..and a joyous one at that. Life won’t always be easy. You won’t always agree. But, I pray that you will turn to God and ask Him to heal the hurts, soothe the emotions and let the joy shine through you and your family.

Love always,

Mom

Suicide.

I’ve actually been watching the national news this week and there have been two celebrities commit suicide this week. The top contributors to suicide are depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Suicide is on the rise in America and the reporters have been left to ask why.

Next weekend many of our show friends will be heading out to the Chi & Maine Jr. Nationals. Among those friends are the McCullough Family. Five years ago, their son, Cody, and our sons won the Chi Fitting Contest. They had been on numerous teams over the years and had finally reached their goal. Three years ago this Labor Day weekend, Cody committed suicide. Cody did fall into one of the risk groups. Drugs and alcohol had a hold on him that he just couldn’t shake. Satan whispered (and maybe even shouted) the lie that Cody would NEVER overcome his struggles with drugs and alcohol. To those who only knew Cody from shows or school, they may have only seen a happy, go lucky kid with an ever-present smile. He hid his struggle well from the casual observer. So many were left questioning why. What was so wrong in his life that he chose to end it? How could we have missed it? Weren’t there warning signs? The truth is, Cody was trying to get his life on the right track. He had talked with his momma about his desire to change. His parents have done an amazing job of reaching out to his friends since his death, guiding them to a relationship with Christ. Cody had given his life to Christ. Someday, he will greet us in Heaven and that will be a glorious day.

I have read numerous stories this spring and summer of dairy farmers receiving information on suicide prevention in the same envelope as their milk checks. I’ve sat in on a webinar predicting lower commodity prices, falling land prices and drastically decreasing income levels for farmers. I’ve watched wildfires ravage ranches in the western half of the US the last two springs. I’ve heard of ranchers in the northern states losing as much as 1/4 of their calf crop due to late season severe winter storms. There’s a lot of negatives out there. Life is stressful. Medical situations arise and cause even more financial stress. We all have breaking points. Talk to someone…..anyone. Some of my closest confidants live 4 to 8 hours away. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s not right in the situation. A different perspective may be what we need.

If you want to talk to someone who will be truly confidential call 800-273-8255 or chat with them online at http://www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.com