A livestock show can elicit a variety of emotions. For a family, a crew, a group of friends or an individual it may seem like a roller coaster of feelings. If we take a closer look there seems to be a pattern to these emotional responses to showing – unscientifically, of course.
Stage 1 – Excitement
It’s time to show! You’ve been preparing in the barn at home. Working hair, feeding, adding supplements. You’ve checked and rechecked the show box. You’ve loaded the trailer taking on the complicated process of making everything fit like a real-life game of Tetris and you’re the champ! Bags are packed. Boots are polished. Belts are sparkling. You’re ready! Nothing is going to hold you back. Let’s hop in the truck, hit the road and do this thing!
Stage 2 – Hurry
You’re only an hour behind. That’s not so bad considering you had to stop for fuel, there was a construction nightmare and breakfast came from the slowest fast food restaurant on earth. Now you’re at the show and you’re on a mission to make up for lost time. You and your crew unload the trailer with military precision. Panels are up, shavings are spread, animals are washed and all the other most important things – like the snack table – are ready in no time. Go team!
Stage 3 – Wait
You got to the barn early to feed, wash and get your animals looking good for display. Now your done with those chores. What’s next? You wait. At every fair, county show and major there are folks propped in camping chairs, sprawled out on hay bales or sleeping soundly on fitting mats. There are kids on tablets, playing tag and playing cards. The most industrious groups bring along a corn hole set to play in the far corner of the barn. You may be grateful for the break. You may wish you could just get on with the show. No matter how you feel about the wait, there’s really nothing you can do but…wait.
Stage 2B – Hurry
Show day! And time for the show day hurry. Feed, wash, dry, fit and get the right animal to the right show ring at the right time. Shew!
Stage 4 – Joy/Rage
It can go either way. Your animal forgets everything you ever taught it and won’t set up or stand still: Rage. Getting your picture made with a banner: Joy. The kid in showmanship beside you squeezes you out of your spot: Rage. Placing higher than you ever thought you could in a tough class: Joy. Getting beat by a heifer that is supposed to be the same age but is 400 lbs larger than every other animal in the class: Rage. Witnessing a kid who was once scared find courage to show their animal, and do it well: Joy. It’s a toss-up and can change from show to show or class to class.
Stage 5 – Denial
The champions hands have been shook, pictures have been made, premiums awarded and ribbons proudly shoved in back pockets. And then you go back to the stall… Fans, grooming chutes or stands, mats, blow dryers, show boxes, chairs, coolers, rakes, brooms, shovels, signs, animals and so much more wait to be loaded. Looking at the massive pile that you must get home your positivity falters. Someone comments hesitantly, “It’s really not that much.” Another says with forced cheerfulness, “At least we don’t have to load all that straw and hay.” Trailers are lined up endlessly. Deciding to wait until the line is shorter you head over to talk to your buddy trying to convince yourself the whole way that, yeah, it’s not that much to load.
Stage 6 – Exhaustion
For better or worse you just spent the day showing livestock. Which is better than the best day doing anything else. The truck ride home is quiet. Everyone but the driver is asleep. Your arm is sore from holding up the head of that one heifer that just won’t cooperate. Your back is aching from bending over a lamb all day. Closing your eyes for that well-deserved rest you know it’s all worth it.
Stage 7 – Grateful
Sure, the days are long and the work is plenty. The friends, the laughs and lots of times the success is plenty too. You’ve got a sense of satisfaction, belonging and, even if you had a bad show day, reaffirm to yourself that this is what you were meant to do. You realize that not everyone has this blessing. You’re grateful to live the Stock Show Life.
Kelly and her husband, Chad, raise cattle, sheep and two children in the mountains of
southwestern Virginia. Their kids are the 4th generation to grow up on the farm and
show livestock. Some of the family’s very best days happen in the show barn. Some of
their most contentious days happen there too. Kelly believes that a kid will build life-long
friends showing livestock. After all, she is the girl that married the boy she met in the
show ring. She loves educating children, especially about agriculture. She believes that
even if a kid won’t grow up to work in agriculture the kid still needs to grow up to be a knowledgeable
consumer. Oh, and that ranch dressing should be considered a food group.