Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 8-23-10
No self-respecting farm kid would miss out on exhibiting livestock at the county fair at least once or twice. The type of animal shown is generally the same kind that is raised on their parents’ farm. Beef cattle are shown by kids of cattle ranchers, dairy cows by dairy families and so on. This wasn’t a rule it was just convenient.
I was a scrawny little girl and we raised beef cattle. Nothing to do but my dad and brother decided I should show a fat steer, the same as my brother. I looked even smaller beside the behemoth. The reasoning was a fat steer was docile and slow to move, and just generally of good disposition. Dad helped me halter break the steers each year and all went well when I showed them. Of course a fat steer did make quite an impression when he stepped on my foot.
We showed calves at the Fall River County Fair in Edgemont, S.D., and at the Western Junior Livestock Show in Rapid City, S.D. These days the county fair has a sale for fat animals and is a terminal show. At that time, though, Western Junior was our terminal show. 4-Hers from several states competed in that show and the fats were sold through the Rapid City Sale Barn, no longer in business. While walking our fats through the sale ring, we girls cried, knew we were saying goodbye to our steers. The tears were real yet may have yielded girls a higher price because we were so darn cute.
Every farm and ranch auctioneer within 100 miles volunteered his time to sell at Western Junior. It was like an honor society of auctioneers, the men we had all grown up watching. To the young 4-Hers they were almost celebrities.
Part of showing calves is the cleaning and fitting required. At Edgemont the water comes out of the ground naturally at 130 degrees. It is a welcome temperature anytime and was especially so one mid-August day when it got so chilly that it snowed – yes, in August. That was one cold fair and we especially enjoyed the warm water as is was kind to our hands. A typical August with hot weather returned right after the fair.
A memorable feeder steer that belonged to a high school aged young man abhorred anyone wearing a dress. (Back in the day many women wore dresses to the fair.) The steer went ballistic and tore around uncontrollably if he saw a dreaded dress. No one in our county had ever heard of such a thing before – or since.
Some 30 years after showing my last steer at Western Junior, my husband was an Army officer teaching ROTC at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. One of the other officers, Hal, looked so familiar to me and after much conversation we realized we had shown calves together at Western Junior, but he went by Hal at that time.
The 4-H program is still creating memories and teaching youngsters. Call your county extension office to find out how you can join or volunteer.
Peggy writes from the family ranch and she can be reached through Peggy@PeggySanders.com.