Some kids have hobbies, others have jobs. However, not many can say that the one thing they are passionate about in life just so happens to be classified as both. When I am asked what I do in my free-time, at first I hesitate because I know a long explanation will have to follow, but after eight-teen years of interpretations, my connotations have improved: “I show cattle. No its not a dog show, no they do not bite me”, I routinely clarify in an amused tone. I grew up on a grain and livestock operation of about three thousand acres, so I basically took my first steps with a baby calf following behind me.
What many people don’t realize is that show-stock contrast regular livestock in many different ways. For instance, they differ in the way they are bred, raised, and even fed. Show-stock are raised first and foremost to compete in the show circuit, which is spread all across the United States and Canada. There are three different degrees that exist, the most competitive level being national. The national level consists of major shows in cities such as Denver, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, and Louisville. There are also competitions at both the state and county level for exhibitors under the age of eighteen. The animals are lead into a ring by halter to be judged on body mass, type, depth, conditioning, and presentation; the animals are ranked in order from least to greatest, but the best individual wins.
To take part in this lifestyle you have to be willing to put in longer days and nights than any other person, the desire to win has to be running through your blood. In high school, my mornings usually began around five, because even more so than humans, cattle hair demands high maintenance. My steers get washed multiple times a day, and are kept under fans in a bedded pin when they aren’t being worked with. Most of my money I earned from shows, has been spent to purchase supplies to care for my animals. I can’t count the amount of times I have been asked why I implement so much time and energy on “just a cow”, or why I spend so much money on “just a cow”. To most people, this lifestyle may seem irrelevant or pointless, but it has shaped me into the person I am today. Someday, when all the banners and ribbons fade, winning a show will be meaningless, but the lessons I learned will remain. The fact of the matter is that being involved in this incredible industry has knocked me down to the weakest points in my life, and then lifted me to heights I never believed I could achieve. It has taught me to fight past adversity, and to find the persistence to do whatever it takes to win, because the day I have reached my goals is the day I realized why the countless hours of sweat, dirt, and tears was worth it. My opinion is clearly different than others because it will never be “just a cow” to me. If they were “just cows” they couldn’t possibly have changed my life. “Just cows” do not have the influence to teach an eight year old to show compassion and responsibility for something that weighs over a thousand pounds more than herself. “Just cows” couldn’t possibly pass down values and beliefs through multiple generations. To me, those animals represent my past, present, and future endeavors. Some would say that “just cows” have made me a person that differs from the ordinary nineteen year old girl. Most girls don’t look forward to the next time they get to wear jeans and a button up, just to attempt and control a 1,400 pound animal on a cool summer morning, but these rich indulgences are a part of my life that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
People may not understand why I do this, in fact, most don’t even know what it is. But the truth is that this life is one that has introduced me to some of the most talented and genuine people I have ever met. I’ve seen this industry come together when families have needed support the most, I’ve seen it change lives. My opinion may be biased, but its these types of people that have demonstrated the types of characteristics that very few people ever get to hold true to themselves. Looking back, I realize this industry has made me want to become a better me each and every day. In an industry so full of competition, we all strive to be individuals full of class, pride, and character, because when all of those things come together: the winning happens on its own.