It seems lately, that our society is in a state of decline. Each night the news brings us terrible acts of violence whether local, national or somewhere in the world. Watching TV isn’t much better, it seems as though the fabric of our society is being ripped up. It is easy to wonder what this world is coming too. All of this is not a very comforting thought and this is why most of us seek a place of comfort where all seems right.
To me that place is a county fair. I judge several county fairs each year even though they come at a very hectic time of the year for me and I really do not have time to be gone I cannot turn them down. Each year my poor father asks me how many fairs I have signed up to judge and I can see him calculating how many hours I will be gone from the hayfield. I know that I will feel a twinge of guilt when I leave early to get on the road and if something is going to break it will be right before or right after I leave. However, I also know that something will happen at each show to remind me of why I enjoy judging them so much.
I am reminded of bucket calves named Tug Boat because they resemble their namesake. One of my favorite stories is a young man who when I asked him if he had anything else to tell me about his bucket calf (over the microphone and to the entire crowd) proceeded to confess a secret. He and his Dad were working with his calf, a calf that was especially spirited and the calf swung around a kicked, putting a dent in his mother’s new car. When I asked why he told me the story over the microphone and in front of the crowd, he told me it was so there were more witnesses.
I enjoy judging bucket calves because most of the time that is where the best stories are but not always. Once during swine showmanship I asked a junior showman what feed he fed his pig. He immediately ran to the fence and called for his father. When Dad rushed to the fence to see what was wrong, junior told him to get a bag of feed because the judge was wanted to know what kind they were using.
There were other times when it took a little longer to see the humor in a situation. One beef show I was judging a steer class and I went in to handle the fat cover of one particular steer. He acted a little fidgety and I asked the young man holding the lead rope if his steer kicked. He told me no, I handled the steer and was immediately kicked in the knee cap. As I looked at the young man though pain-filled eyes he simply said, “This is not my steer, my steer does not kick.” He did not lie; I had not asked the right question.
My favorite part of any show is afterward. I know that seems a little backward. Most judges want to get on the road right after the show so they cannot be chewed out. Maybe it is experience and maybe it is because I am not fast enough to out run anyone, but I most enjoy talking with the kids and parents about their projects. After the show is when you find out about their market lamb being out of last year’s ewe. The pride of seeing a project from birth to completion is what it is all about.
Sometimes it is the winners that stay and chat but often it is the kids who had animals that placed a little farther down the line. They just want to know what they could do better next year. I try to help as much as I can, but often I just listen. It’s those interactions with parents and kids that I find most rewarding.
Yes, it is easy to spend a great deal of time worrying about what our society has sunk too and worry about the future. It is easy, if you don’t take time to find the good and I guess that is why I cannot make myself retire from judging county fairs. I know I get as much or more than the kids do from those shows. If you don’t believe me, just go spend some time at a county fair and I bet you will feel better.