Pitts: The Meatless Wonder
April 6, 2018
"Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differed from your own. You may both be wrong." — Dandamis
The biggest problem I had when leaving high school was that for four years the FFA had consumed my life and then, suddenly, I had nothing to hold my interest. Collegiate livestock judging filled that void. I liked the competitive nature of it and loved giving reasons. I was good at it, if I do say so myself. So much so that my grandpa thought I should be a lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court, but I objected and appealed his decision on grounds that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life looking for loopholes.
I also loved livestock judging because I got to go places I'd never been: Chicago, Fort Worth, Kansas City, San Francisco, Portland and Denver. It was because of all this traveling that I learned something important about myself: I hated big cities.
I'll never forget our flight home from Chicago because it was my first time on a 747 and because it was a Playboy Bunny flight where Playboy Bunnies served the first class flyers drinks and dinner. I kid you not. We got fogged out of L.A. and had to circle for a couple hours and while we waited drinks were on the house. Needless to say, things got a little rambunctious, and the Playboy Bunnies ended up being locked in the cabin with the pilots. I think the Bunnies got permanently grounded after that.
One reason I liked giving reasons so much was I grew up in a house where "the views and opinions expressed were strictly those of management." Judging was the first time in my life I was allowed to express my opinion and the grown-ups had to listen and not interrupt.
My coach, Bill Jacobs, was only 10 years older than I was and our deep friendship was based largely on one thing: I taught him how to shoot pool. I had grown up shooting pool in my grandpa's house and had become fairly proficient at it. One time on a judging team trip I introduced Bill to the game and he immediately became infatuated with it, so much so that if a student wanted to reach him after class they knew where to find him — the pool hall.
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In his career Bill judged all the major shows in America and even overseas. It was during a faddish phase where you could judge a class of animals with a tape measure. As a coach, Bill was the kind of a man who let you say what you thought … as long as you agreed with him.
One year, in preparation for a big contest, we were judging bulls and in one class there was a bull who had won all the western shows but I rolled The Meatless Wonder to the bottom of the class because as far as I could tell, there wasn't an ounce of meat on his long, tall frame. He was short an organic compound and had "no acetol". (Sound it out.) I never bought into the "long and tall" fad, being of the opinion that you couldn't eat all that empty space underneath an animal.
Lo and behold The Meatless Wonder ended up in a judging class at the Cow Palace and I recognized him immediately. (I can't remember people but I never forget an animal!) I knew they'd start the class with The Meatless Wonder but I just couldn't do it. I wanted to place him dead last but I had to think about the team so I placed him third and my score took a big hit. I ended up placing second in the contest and had I placed him first I would have won the whole thing, but I had my principles.
I ended up with a 48 out of 50 on my reasons for the class so I could only assume the judge hearing my reasons kinda agreed with me. It's been a source of enjoyment ever since knowing that The Meatless Wonder's real name has never appeared in any popular pedigree. He ended up at the butcher shop within two years, right where he belonged. I'm sure he yielded at least 20 pounds of extremely lean, tasteless hamburger and one very big pile of long, tall bones.