Today was a great day. I was wrangled by my sister and niece into hauling the young un’s lambs to the Connell fairgrounds for shearing as fair season fast approaches. There is something wonderfully wicked and decadent about using a ¾ ton pickup with a 24 foot gooseneck trailer to haul two lambs that weigh a combined 275 pounds. Every time I am asked to do something for a kid involved in 4H or FFA I have a tough time saying “no”.
Some people may argue that there really is very little to nothing good about me. I will not argue with that assessment but I will say whatever good there is in me usually has some very direct link to my days raising animals for fairs in both 4H and FFA. You get exposed to and have to deal with so many things that are going to be part of life as you grow up and get older.
Some of these things are quite obvious like learning to work hard, striving for excellence, setting goals, learning to deal with success as well as disappointments. You notice I did not say success or failure? That is because anyone who has completed a 4H or FFA animal project has succeeded in my book. There are times though things just don’t go your way. There will always be the years that you have a particular steer (if you are minor leaguers you may substitute hog, lamb, chicken, rabbit, goat, llama or chinchilla) at this point as is necessary, but anyway you may have that steer that you really felt good about. Maybe you felt he was really an excellent market animal and maybe at home he acted like he would shine in the show ring and help bring home a trophy from the fitting and showing competition.
Many times these high expectations are not met based on many outside factors, which do not mean that you failed; it means you succeeded at a lower level as far as I am concerned. Think of it this way, maybe you were middle of your class and you are usually near the top. This does not mean you failed, it means that for whatever reason today was just not your day. If you want to feel better take a different tact with your mind. Realize that only about 3% or less of all kids even have the opportunity to show an animal at the fair. If you are dead last in your division you are at least 97% better than the rest of the nation at showing an animal! Embrace the opportunity, appreciate the wins and learn from the disappointments, again notice I did not say losses? I will promise you that for every time you thought you had a win in the bag that did not happen, there will be a day when you felt you had little chance to win that you will be holding a purple ribbon and trophy and/or belt buckle.
When you become an adult you will remember those wins, and you will remember the times you didn’t win as well but not at such a high level. The important thing to focus on is threefold in this old mans opinion. If you did not win, did you do your best with whatever the situation that was presented? Be able to say yes, not a weak “I thought so” but a strong and forceful “yes, I absolutely did my best. If you are the religious type remember something else, “God hates a quitter”.
The second thing is did you learn anything that will make you better and more competitive next time? Again, you should be able to answer in the affirmative and you should put that knowledge to work for you the very next opportunity you have. Maybe you saw something the people above you did that you did not. Maybe it was just how you dealt with a specific situation and that next time you would deal with it a bit differently. My Dad used to say, “Experience and good judgment usually comes from lacking experience and making many poor judgments”.
The last thing has two parts that are equally important. Do not be a whiner; a bit of emotion is fine but do not be a whiner and a blamer. Things like, “the judge was not watching when I did “x” or so and so had a steer that was just as jumpy as mine and they did better etc. etc. Let me tell you something as someone who has been in the show ring as both an exhibitor and as a judge. A class of animals and how they are placed is one person’s opinion on a specific day at a certain time. Believe me; anyone who has judged has some second thoughts over the next few days and they have to deal with those thoughts just as you second guess certain things you did or did not do.
Whenever I have been asked to judge I tell people that I will promise them three things. I will do my best with my knowledge and experience is the first promise. Secondly, when I am finished placing a class there will be some people who think I am a superstar judge (the winners). Lastly, after placing a class there will be some people who will say I am some level of idiotic (the non winners).
As for the second part of the final thing exhibitors should achieve and in my opinion the most important. Did you have any fun? Did you maybe get a chuckle when one of your competitors forgot to brush their steer after the judged handled him? Were you able to laugh at yourself because when you switched steers you forgot to lead up and reset the animals feet? Maybe it was the soaking that a new kid gave an older exhibitor at the wash rack. It is very possible that a fun thing would be some urban person saying, “oh, look at the COWS" as they walked through the steer barn. Life is about living and enjoying your time doing it. I will guarantee that as you grow older and look back there will be few times in your life that you will reflect on and have smiles and good memories about than your time at the fair if you follow this advice. Have a great fair season kids and please have some fun. You are part of a very select part of our nation. The kids that had the chance to raise, train and show an animal at a fair. If you do not grow up to work in an endeavor that feeds the world, at least you know how to if needed.
Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is nutgrass aka Cyperus rotundus.
Today’s picture is a video of Dakota selling her first steer at her first fair. I am constantly telling her that these animals and the fair will always be something wonderful to remember no matter what path she takes in life.