I grew up in the country. But that’s a completely different thing than growing up country. We didn’t own a farm, I wasn’t in the FFA. Heck, I’m a 4-H drop out! So when one of my best girls (Courtney) approached me about letting my son show a steer with her son through 4-H, I was a little unsure about how it would go. I mean, I know NOTHING about anything bovine (other than I like my steaks medium). Thankfully her dad (Mr. Henry) is a retired ag teacher, she’s an ag teacher by trade and she grew up showing cows, so I knew Evan would be in good hands.
Enter Mr. T.
Mr. T is an Angus steer. I have learned some cow terminology that I try to use correctly so I don’t look like a completely uneducated buffoon- cow: female that has given birth but also a blanket term for cattle in general, heifer: female that has NOT given birth, bull: male that is unaltered in his *ahem* nether regions, steer: supper.
Evan chose a steer and Jake chose a heifer, both less than a year old. They have bonded with their cows, bathe and brush them regularly, and have taught them how to wear a halter, walk, and obey their cues. The boys have learned fancy knots so they can tie them up and they won’t escape (if they do it right!!). Aaaannnddd they will each learn how to style their cows.
Yep, that’s what I said. The boys aren’t to that stage yet so Courtney and Mr. Henry are the stylists. The cows need to look pretty so they cut their hair, blow dry it so their coats are puffy and fluffy, brush them, and spray them with cow hair spray. Y’all, I am not even making this stuff up!
I understand why showing livestock is important. Kids need to have an appreciation for taking care of another living being. Also, we’re carnivores. We like our meat. We (myself included) need to know what goes into the making our food. Good, bad, and ugly. Showing livestock is a sport that has been around for a long time. (Yeah, I said sport. YOU try being a 100 pound kid who is able to control and lead a 900 pound animal. That takes some serious muscle!) But what I want to know is who thought it would be a good idea to tease a cow’s tail into a nice ball and then spray the ever loving crap out of it with black hair spray??? I am constantly peppering Courtney and Mr. Henry with questions (because I repeat, I know nothing) and finally the other day I asked “Why all the fussing with it’s hair?” Simply put, it is to highlight their good features and help camouflage the not so good. Much like concealer and double sided tape in the beauty pageant world.
Once the cow is all pretty, it’s show time. Months of preparation are coming down to this moment. You hear the announcer call over the loudspeaker for their class so everyone heads to the arena.
Once you get there, sometimes you have to wait. While you wait, you send your kid into the arena to watch a few classes compete while your manly husband scratches the steer’s belly to keep him happy. (And I snap pictures to post all over social media! Ha!)
When it is finally time, our amazing boys walk into the show ring with their heads held high. They’re the boss of those cows! They parade them around like they are the most perfect Thanksgiving turkeys ever. (Sorry the picture quality is terrible, my good camera crapped out on me right then.) My guts are in a knot because I’m so nervous but my chest feels like it’s going to explode from pride. Sometimes our babies move on to the next round and sometimes the judge just doesn’t like them or their cows. We adults grumble that the judge needs new glasses but once we meet up with our boys, it’s all pats on the back and words of encouragement.
And pictures. Lots of pictures.