In 1983, my dad took me to Weldon Walser’s farm to buy a bred Duroc gilt. This was my introduction to the stock show world. I farrowed a litter. Kept a barrow. Wilbur. He got an infected cord when he was cut and I never got to show him. Dad had Wilbur butchered, then later fed him to the family. It bothered me but not for long. At that point, I was over it when it came to eating stock show critters.
Over the next couple of years, I showed several pigs and then a couple of grass maggots (as they were called back then). Dad made me show a Dorset and a Suffolk. And I quote, “If you want a steer, you first need to show that you can take care of a lamb.” After the lambs, he too was ready for a steer.
In 1985, I had a wicked good Berkshire barrow named “Berk Reynolds”. He had been champion a time or two and placed well at a couple of jackpots. Then the 1985 pseudorabies outbreak hit and that was the end of showing hogs in Oklahoma for that season.
But then 1986 rolled around. Dad & I got outbid on the pig that we wanted. So, we bought the skinny litter mate. And that worked out well. “Bandit” the blue butt consistently won classes and brought home cash, trophies and banners. He was only beat in class ONCE! Dr. Bob Hines stood him 2nd in class at Woodward District. OK. But, then he won a class at OKC, made the premium sale and then won a check from the carcass contest ( remember that deal?) I also showed my steer at OKC that year. “Ronnie” the black baldie was a great first calf.
In the fall of 1986, I showed another black baldie steer at Tulsa. “Willard” came from the the legendary Shattuck ag teacher, Mr. W.E. Bradley, who had already been retired for a decade before I came around. Yes, the W was for Willard. Mr. Bradley would never tell me his middle initial after I named that first steer after him. That steer made the premium sale at Tulsa.
1986–From then on, I was over it. I didn’t care about locals, counties, jackpots or preview shows. I was now all about premium sales. I didn’t have to win, hang a banner or bring home hardware. Make the sale. It was good.
But now, I am an old ag teacher and a FORMER stock show parent. This is NOT bragging but I have had students and kids that have shown the grand steer at OYE, the grand lamb at OYE, the grand wether goat at OYE, a couple of breed champion pigs at OYE and the grand broilers at Tulsa. There has been success at other shows as well. I have had first hand access to see how numerous families have managed money, followed genetics, worked hard, built a program and worked on showmanship. I’m not taking credit for any of the wins. It’s just that I have been in the right place with the right people for several decades and several species.
I tell you this because I have been a stock show addict in four different decades. I’m not talking a casual user at a weekend party. I’m talking full blown, back alley, find a vein between the toes kind of junky. Chicken feed? Oh yeah. I know what to feed. Working cattle hair? Yeah! I love the smell of the products and the sound of a blower. Sorting goats in Texas while getting sandblasted by the wind and some malicious flies clinging to my body….been there. AIing sows in the middle of the night for a student on a Tuesday night in April. Yep. Clipping legs on sheep before shag became such a deal. That too.
Yet, at this point, I’m over it. Done. I would like to just walk away and be done with it.
But………I can’t. I CAN’T! I am over all of the money, the additives, the politics and all of the extra crap that goes on in this world. Trust me when I say that I am over that $hIt! However, I cannot get over the fact of a kid bonding with an animal. The work ethic that the good ones develop. The network of people that a stock show kid develops is better than any college education. I can’t get that image out of my head when you stop by to check a project and the kid is lying on their animal, while reading a school book. The image of a little girl playing soccer with her prized pig will forevermore be burned into my memory.
When done right, a stock show project is an oh so powerful tool. And when done wrong, stock shows can make an old, crusty addict like myself want to go cold turkey and be “Over It”.
I’m not checking into rehab yet, but there are a lot of things about the stock show industry that we could do better. It’s not any one thing or person. It is a group effort and as a group, we need to do better. I need to do better.
Have a good one. And if tomorrow isn’t better, well, we will wish that it would have been.