February 1, 2011

You can take the girl out of the country...

I am told there are people who believe all Texans ride a horse, live on a ranch, own a herd of cattle and a flock of chickens. Of course, that's not really true but if those folks had spent a recent Saturday with the my brother, the Senor and me a few weeks ago they might could have never be been convinced otherwise.

We spent a recent Saturday afternoon at The 115th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Their catch-phrase this year was "This Thing Is Legendary" and let me tell you folks - they're right!

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely LOVE a stock show. It takes me back to my teenage years. You see, some 35 years ago my brother and I began participating in stock shows. We were raised around livestock; our Father is a rancher and we were both members of the Future Farmers America (FFA). We raised and cared for livestock throughout our high school years. My brother carried it even further and continues to raise cattle to this day.

Luckily for me two of my favorite young men were showing lambs on that particular Saturday so I loaded up my brother and the Senor (at 7:00 AM no less!) and to the stock show grounds went!

Even though it has been 30 years since I was last a participant in the Fort Worth Stock Show it felt like yesterday as we walked through the barn doors. I realize this will sound crazy to most but even the smell brought a feeling of nostalgia over me. It's an odd mixture of hay, cotton candy, funnel cake and corn dog with the not-so-subtle hint of manure!

The first barn we walked through was a cattle barn. What beautiful creatures show cattle are. Not to mention pampered - show cattle are very pampered! Their owner provides them with something similar to a spa treatment before every show. They receive a bath, a cut, blow-dry and style. Not a hair is left uncombed. As their crowning glory the bottom of their tail is finished off into a perfectly coiffed ball!

Next we went to the lamb barn. The show was underway and there were kiddos and parents everywhere grooming their lambs. The lambs receive a similar spa-type treatment to the cattle as they are prepared for their time before the judge.

As you can imagine this requires a lot of time, work and money on the owners part. The interesting thing is that these owners are anywhere from 8 (or under) to 18. Stock shows are a family affair. Parents and FFA teachers alike work side by side with the kids to feed, groom and care for their animals.

Responsibility for an animal is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job and the lessons learned from the experience are ones that are carried for a lifetime. As my Daddy once said to me, "those hogs don't care that its Christmas day - they want to be fed"!

The FFA teachers I have been fortunate enough to be associated with are selfless individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching young people to become responsible adults. They sacrifice their time, not to mention commit to careers that are often not too lucrative, to provide these kids with skills that will help them throughout their lives.

We had a ball during our visit to the stock show. We saw livestock (including the biggest dang rooster this girl has ever seen!), checked out the exhibits, watched the kiddos show and visited with dear friends (including one of our old FFA teachers who had a huge impact the lives of my brother and me).

They say you can take the girl from the country but you can't take the country out of the girl and I guess they are right because a day at the stock show was just the right medicine for this girl-from-the-country.