I stopped just a minute ago and counted how many shows we’ve been to this year – either fitting or showing (but most of them have been showing AND fitting). Anyone want to take a guess? January 1 to August 20. Eight short, or maybe long, months. One showman left in the junior circuit. So – what do you think? 5? 10? 12? 15? 15 would mean 2 shows a month and 3 one month. Shows – not days, because some shows last several days. So, what’s your guess?
Ready to be blown away? We have been to 32 shows in 8 months. Not all 5 of us make it to every show. We do have a cow herd to care for and a farm to run. Jesse, Brittany, Mike and I all work off the farm. Chris takes care of a lot of the farm and cattle work for very little pay. So WHY? Why would we go to an average of 4 shows a month? Simply put, it is our passion. I know the show cattle industry is not for everyone. I know for some it is “just another hobby”. I try really hard to understand that. Really, I do. But it goes against my very being to just have a hobby. I was taught (basically from birth I think) that if I was going to do something I’d better give it my all. Mike and I have been told we expected too much of our sons when they were little. And likely, we did. But, they know the value of a job well done. They have high expectations of themselves and of those around them.
And that, my friends, is why our very own county fair tends to bring out the most ugliness. I couldn’t tell you the number of times over the years we have been accused of cheating somehow or of paying off the judge. We made it a point not to talk to those we knew MIGHT be judging our show ahead of time. And while we have known or known of many of the judges over the years, trust me there has been no preferential treatment. Our boys have always been responsible for the daily care of their calves. Before school, after school, during the summer – it really was their calf. Notice I didn’t say it was their project. This is so much more than a project. A project is something that goes for a certain time period. We have several generations of old show heifers on our farm so there’s no end date for this. Usually the least amount of time spent on a calf around here is a year. And so when we go to the shows, and when we occasionally have success, its been earned.
The backbiting and rumor spreading that goes on behind the trailers and outside of the show ring are two of the ugliest parts of our industry. I believe those are just as bad as other ethical issues we have in the show calf industry. Cheating, being hateful, spreading half-truths or outright lies are all in the same category. They all destroy the youth involved. If nothing nice can be said, go back to your trailer and say it to yourself – not everyone standing ringside.
Many state fairs are struggling with trying to figure out how to maintain some level of ethics in their steer show. It’s not an easy thing to fix. If you read the rules to find the loop holes, it’s going to be tough for an honest person to understand. Maybe putting the faces of the hardworking families to the names on the entries would have helped them to see the rules in a more personal way.
So, to all the State Fair exhibitors out there, giving it their all, good luck. Be careful that YOU are doing what you’re supposed to and have fun. See the lives your decisions affect and allow them to invite you into their world of hard work. I know there are those who cheat, but I think you’ll find a majority to be honest, hard-working young people who love their animals.
****I had to remove a few paragraphs of the earlier post. If you want to know why, there was a rule that I was apparently in violation of and removed those as soon as I was told. Feel free to ask me about the previous comments. I’ll share my beliefs in person but am not at liberty to share them here.