Mader: My first show calf
Some of my best growing up memories are of getting my 4-H projects ready for the fair. 1994 was an especially fun year for me because it was the first year I got to show a calf. I was 12 and I felt like I had waited my whole life to get into the show ring. Excited didn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
My parents raised Charolais cross cattle, so the heifer I picked out was yellow. I named her Fancy after the popular Reba McEntire song (I’m thankful I didn’t know what that song meant at the time!). I thought Fancy was the most perfect calf ever and I knew that breaking her to lead would be easy. Of course, I was completely wrong.
Fancy turned out to be quite the stuck-up and stubborn heifer. She seemed to know that my folks and I were pretty inexperienced in show cattle training and she took full advantage of our lack of ability.
Fancy wasn’t one of those sweet, easy-going cows that are tame quickly. In fact, no amount of grain or cow cake could convince her to let me even get close to her. So, my dad decided to tie her up for a few days — with food and water of course — to see if that would teach her to settle down. We put her in the chute to halter her and then my dad tied her to the fence. She put on quite a show full of jumps and bucks, but eventually settled down an hour or so later. We kept her tied up for three days. While the experiment didn’t teach her to respect the halter, it did at least get her tame enough for me to pet.
In the weeks following, my dad helped me work with Fancy, but she made halter-breaking difficult. She hated the halter and fought it like crazy. She got so angry I couldn’t even get close to her when she had it on.
Finally, my dad got so frustrated with her, he decided to hook her up to the tractor. Fancy fought the tractor like mad too, but she quickly realized she was no match for it and began to walk behind it like a pro. We took her out on daily walks and soon she was doing so well my dad had me driving the tractor and pulling her behind it.
At first I was nervous about being in charge of her walks, but soon I was cocky about how well her and I were doing. Unfortunately, my pride did come before the fall.
On my third or fourth outing with Fancy behind the tractor I was gazing at the scenery while I slowly drove along. Fancy must have sensed my lack of attention because while I was distracted, she decided she was tired of being pulled and sat down. I’d pulled her 3 or 4 feet before I looked back and saw her on the ground. I immediately stopped the tractor and jumped out crying and praying — I was sure that I had just killed my calf.
Thankfully, Fancy was still breathing. My parents and brothers and sister were close by and ran over to help me get her up. Fancy seemed dazed for a few seconds, but soon started pulling on the halter again and I knew she was okay.
I thought the near-death experience would provide an attitude adjustment for Fancy, but all it did was make me extra cautious. We shared many more adventures before we got to the fair… to be continued.❖