IT finally happened this year. Our daughter, Jenna, became old enough for 4-H. Old enough to show cattle. Considering my husband and I have talked about showing cattle with children who didn’t yet exist since pretty much the day we met, it’s a fair understatement to say we were excited.
And yet, so little in life goes as planned.
The cattle had been led and groomed, the boots bought, the bling chosen. And you know how you read those glowing stories with sun-kissed photos and reports of perseverance and hard work paying off? Well, this isn’t one of them.
The day started off well. Seven-year-old Nathan showed his little bottle calf, Buddy. It was as adorable as you might expect a ring full of little kids and little calves to be. Judge Dick Burns told them, “You all are some of the very few kids in the entire world who get to have this kind of an experience.” Amen.
Then Jenna showed her heifer, Granite. Granite is a reasonably laid-back Simmental-Angus cross. We’ve worked with her endlessly. But for some reason that day, the Angus in her (and I say that as a die-hard Shorthorn girl who did not get her way in the heifer selection department) became fully apparent. She wasn’t exactly easy to show. Burns even said as much and complimented Jenna on doing a good job with her.
On to the steer show. Jenna took Gus into the ring. Somewhere on the first lap, he stepped square on her right boot. She wanted to cry, but didn’t. I had my eye on the steer next to her. He was acting ornery and was being shown by another first-timer.
Sure enough, as they pulled up after being placed, that steer tried to mount Gus. In the cluster that ensued, the steer kicked Jenna in the side as he mounted Gus, and for a fleeting but ever-lastingly long second, I thought the two steers were going to tumble on top of her. There’s a fair chance my nephew still has finger marks on his arm because he had the unfortunate luck of standing next to me during all of this.
Jenna was crying but OK, and I wound up being that mom who escorts her poor injured child out of the ring. We iced her foot and checked out the hoof-sized bruise that was already forming on her side. But through her tears, she insisted, “I still (sob) want (sob) to do (sob) showmanship!”
I’ve hardly been so proud.
And so she did. And then the heifer stepped on the same foot as the steer did. She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. She was done. And so were we. The show was over. Done.
Fast-forward two more shows — to the county fair. Jenna showed like a champ. She took home a plaque for champion Simmental heifer. Her animals behaved. She was thrilled. Best of all: She won the Sunrise Showmanship contest for first-year showmen. It’s a big deal in our county; even her dad competed in it.
Now, I’ve hardly been so proud.
Jenna worked hard. She had tough competition, and as judge Adam Dryer pointed out, these kids will be fighting it out in showmanship for the rest of their showing careers. She knew everything there was to know about her calf, and told Dryer most of it — until he finally cut her off, laughing. Most of all, she had the look of a kid who wanted to win. She had an animal to show off, and she wanted the judge to take a look. That’s what it takes to win.
There’s a certain walk to a kid who’s done well and knows it. She has a jaunty step. She holds her head up. She smiles. Big. She says “thank you” a lot, as people who’ve never spoken to her stop and offer congratulations.
She left the ring with her head held high. No tears. No disappointments, no regrets, no bruises. This was our Jenna at the county fair.
This is why we do this.Holly Spangler
Used with permission from Prairie Farmer. This story first appeared in September 2012, page 16. To see this story, go to: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/PRA/PF09Sep12/pra016.pdf