Downhill slide

My boys finished up their final spring show the first Sunday in June. Our county fair is quickly approaching July 21 to 25. And it seems like there’s never enough hours in the day. However, I am thankful for extra daylight in the evenings especially since it’s been so stinking hot.

We went to the spring shows to give the boys a little more experience in the show ring and eventually confidence to show well at their county fair since it’s ultimately the end of the road for the beef and meat goat projects.

My oldest made the remark about a fancy trailer at the last show and I had to bite my tongue a little bit. I barked back, “well, the parking lot race isn’t one we want to win.” The livestock and all the work contained in the trailer are way more important than showing up with the highest dollar truck and trailer.

I have to admit I did have a little déjà vu on that Sunday when we pulled into the fairgrounds. One of the first horse shows I participated in when I was in 4-H was at the same location. We didn’t have the newest pickup or trailer and even had a borrowed trailer this time, just like my first horse show.

Shaun probably had a lot of the same feelings I did at my first show—nervousness and worry. I remember feeling like my horse couldn’t compete with the ones that cost thousands more than my $500 one. But I brought home more than one blue ribbon in my days. I believe the boys held their own at the spring shows we went to and I hope they’re a little more prepared for the fair.

Our county fair is quickly approaching and there’s so much to do to prepare for it. I find myself making list after list and trying to decide what needs done and when. I only have 2 kids and I can’t imagine what those 4-H families who have more than one participating go through. My social media feeds are filled with county fair photos and other graphics aimed at 4-H families.

One of those graphics caught my eye recently; one from the Southwind Extension District in Kansas—the ten commandments of 4-H parents.  The first commandment in the graphic, “Thou shalt not feed, train, make or bake exhibits for thou are trying to teach the child responsibility.” Hmm.. I thought. What about those of us with beginning 4-Hers? Little kids. I’m not turning them loose with a 1,000 pound steer or heifer and letting them fend for themselves. Or letting my 8 year old operate the stove unattended. Or handle my couple thousand of dollars worth of camera equipment by themselves. Not do it for them, but I’m going to help.

I know the intention of the graphic wasn’t to make those of us who are more involved in the projects than they should be feel bad, but instead remind them the responsibility for the projects are to be with the children and so the kids learn something.

My oldest had a bucket calf his second year of 4-H, and it consequently got sick and died. His cousin had one he was feeding and let him use it for his project. We were over there anyway taking care of pigs, so she got a workout and he spent time with her. He even managed to show her the second year as a bucket calf and breeding heifer and she showed really well for him.

His false sense of confidence pushed him to want to have his own steer and heifer this year. I’d been reluctant in his first couple of years because he was so small. By the time last fall rolled around he kept asking to spend his money from the fair on a steer and heifer. In the back of my head a voice told me, “don’t do it.” I should have listened to this voice. I shouldn’t have let a 10-year-old boy talk me into buying him a steer and a heifer. Many arguments have gone on outside the calf pen between him and I.

And now here we are less than 2 weeks from the fair and he’s still scared of the heifer and needs to do a lot of work with them both just to be able to show them at the fair. They were kind of halter broke when we got them and are decent at leading for me, but he needs to be better at doing the work himself. Honestly I feel responsible for letting him spend most of his fair money on these two calves and hope he learns from this experience. I just hope everyone minds their P’s & Q’s at the fair and the confidence he gained from showing his goats will follow through with these calves. I wonder if there’s a 4-H mom’s prayer somewhere instead of the ten commandments, because I’m going to need it.