In the last couple of days I’ve had the privilege and the honor of talking with a number of young stockmen who will be showing their animals at the upcoming livestock show.
I showed steers and pigs when I was growing up.
I remember the work, the fun and the lessons learned from all those hours working with the animals.
My son showed pigs for a few years. He too, learned many of those same lessons.
It takes work and dedication to raise a squealing piglet into a prime example of what the industry considers a quality market animal.
It takes even more work and industry to convince a 400-pound calf to allow a halter and learn to lead. Cattle were never meant to be led around a show ring. They were meant to graze freely on pasture.
I have to admit I had very limited experience with lambs and none with goats.
As I traveled to the different locations to talk with the kids that will be showing their projects, a couple of points jump out at me that I felt need to be publicized.
To begin with, every young showman I have talked to is learning a work ethic. They are learning they have to take care of their animals. Mom or dad aren’t going to do it.
That is a wonderful concept. These kids are learning they have to take full responsibility for the care of that animal.
How often do we hear, that today’s kids have no sense of responsibility, no work ethic? I know I’ve been guilty of saying it.
I’m pleased to see how absolutely wrong I can be!
It’s true, mom or dad might have to roust them out of bed an hour early, so they can feed and exercise the animals, but the work is left up to the kids.
That is something they will never lose. It means, when they get old enough to hold a job, their employer will be able to count on them to get the job done and not give the excuse, “It’s not my responsibility.”
These kids learn there is no shame in making a mistake and being able to admit it.
For years I’ve thought I can talk to a kid or a teen for five minutes and tell if they show livestock or not.
Some may disagree, but there are a lot of people who will understand what I am saying.
Young showmen have a confidence, a self-esteem that goes far deeper than the self-indulgent swagger of kids involved in so many other pursuits.
Taking care of the pigs, the lambs and the steers, kids have to give of themselves for more than just the moment they are in the spotlight.
With each animal they show, they are committing not only to that animal, but to every other showman. They are committing to ‘do right’ by that animal to give it a fair and equal chance.
These kids showing the animals don’t just show those animals, they show themselves. They show their work, their dedication.
But there is one thing that bothers me terribly.
The lack of support the kids get from the community in general.
There are no cheerleaders, other than the parents.
Very few, if any of the residents show up to watch these kids, unless they have a kid showing. Think of the spectators who show up for other events, where they have no one participating.
Makes me wonder if our livestock showmen ever feel they are not as important as other eventers.
For the corporate sponsors who provide awards, buckles and ribbons, I say thank you.
These kids have worked hard and need to know their efforts are not in vain.
Believe it or not, many of these young showmen, will be the leaders that feed the world and take charge when no one else wants the responsibility.