An Evening Walk

Little Sydney at the ripe old experienced age of four is already showing and caring for her own cattle. And she is showing young stockmen and women years older just what it takes to be in the winners circle.

The daily routine goes like this. Sydney goes to the barn, rounds up her halter and heads for the pasture. She slips the halter on Ooo La La and the two make the journey back to the barn.  The straw, grass and dirt are brushed from the heifer’s hair. She is washed until her hair shines and is dried from her nose to the tip of her tail with a giant bovine hair dryer. Ooo La La will look like she just walked out of the finest New York beauty salon. Every hair stands up perfectly in place and the heifer looks like she is dressed in the finest velveteen fabric. Hours of clipping the hair with a small hairdresser’s clipper turns a messy do into the velveteen Ooo La La wears so well. The little heifer will spend her day in an air conditioned show barn bedded in clean crisp straw or wood chips and then turned out in the pasture at night to relax. Sydney will keep her bed clean and fresh. She will mix up Ooo La La’s morning “oatmeal” with a ration of the best grains and feed her some yummy smelling hay—at least yummy to a calf and to ranch folks.

The atmosphere of the easy going daily routine will change when the two hit the showring. It will be all business. The long slack lead rope will disappear and the show grip will replace the easy going slack rope of the evening walk. Both child and animal will get a bath on show day. Ooo La La will be wearing her pretty halter and velveteen coat and little Sydney will be wearing her nicest western shirt, jeans, boots and hat. Her little belt will be cinched around her waist and a showman magically evolves.  The dirty faced child becomes the more mature dignified Sydney, the showman. She will take charge of Ooo La La and they become a team.

Success in the junior show ring takes a lot of work and it also requires that the child and the animal build a special relationship and understanding. It takes a lot of one on one time with hours of practice and training and hours of washing, blowing dry and clipping bovine hair. It also takes hours of patience and care until the animals trust the people handling them. Calves kick and they are known to run over their handlers in the beginning but hard work usually takes care of those tendencies. This process is full of risk. Parents quite often do a lot of the work and what makes Sydney so special is that she is determined to do her own work. When she leads Ooo La La into that show ring both will be dressed in their finest and ideally they will be on their best behavior. Sydney will be determined and calm and hopefully the calf follows suit. Ooo La La’s velveteen coat will also smell like heaven from the shampoo and sprays. Sydney with her mom, Carly, will do a last minute wash on the heifers face and ears as they wait on the sidelines for the show to begin. No doubt Mom Carly will also run a check on Sydney’s appearance. Sydney’s grandmother Sue will be close by and Dad is no doubt watching to make sure the whole thing comes off as planned. Children showing livestock is a family affair. Both Grandma Sue and Mom Carly are old hands and both accomplished showmen too. Their example sets the pace for Sydney.

Youth cattle shows are a busy sensual place. There will be youngsters dressed in their best and cattle fitted and looking their best too. Parents will be close on the sidelines ready to assist if needed. The sight of youngsters carefully weaving in and out among others makes you realize just how small the kids are compared to their animals. It is easy to have a mishap with so much going on.  There is usually at least one animal that protests and everyone holds their breath until it once again gives the control back to the junior showman. There are two important reasons for a well behaved animal—safety for kids and bystanders and showring success. The kids have a lot of pride in the animals they show and it’s disappointing and embarrassing when their animals don’t mind. The guts and determination that it takes to manage an animal so much larger than yourself  is admirable and it’s even more admirable when the kids bravely deal with the  sometimes unruly animal with dignity. Animals are individuals with a mind of their own and they can become unruly despite all the training due to fear and stress. The sights and sounds of animals and children working calmly into position at a judge’s command makes parents hold their breath at times. The determination of these young showmen makes their parent’s hearts swell with pride. Valuable lessons are learned at these shows including how to win and be humble as well as how to lose gracefully. Both members of the team are judged—the child and the animal and quite possibly the parent.

It is quite admirable in a child so young to already know her own mind. Heifers grow up to be mother cows and so will Ooo La La and if all goes as planned, she will produce future show babies. She won’t always be decked out and look like velveteen but she will always be loved. Sydney already has another baby heifer picked out to add to her show string for the day Ooo La La is all grown up. And she has already started training and cajoling and patiently guiding her new heifer into being the winner she envisions.

And Sidney is like all children with messy hair, a tan and a dirty face. She eats cookies, takes baths and does chores. When she cleans up and puts on her show duds and makes the grand entry into the show ring like a showman beyond her years, it is hard to sometimes correlate the child with the showman. She knows every move to make and she knows how to get Ooo La La to do exactly what she wants her to do just as her mother knows how to get Sydney to do what she needs to do.

Handling a heifer many times larger than a child of four takes skill and what cattle folk call stockmanship. Stockmanship is a combination of common sense, love, discipline, physical care and maybe more importantly respect.  The heifer has learned to respect Sydney and Sydney respects Ooo La La. There is no doubt that it isn’t all sunny and easy because Ooo La La has a mind of her own. This is where determination, skill, calf training and a stubborn streak come in handy. The slack rope between Sydney and Ooo La La represents many hours of hard work and a special level of cooperation between the two. Ooo La La follows along without a second thought. The hours of work and dedication are not only Sydney’s but her parents as well. A loving dedicated family is key to success. The knowledge that Sydney gains each day comes direct from the experience her mother gained as a child.

Little Sydney is already an accomplished showman. She goes to kindergarten this year with work ethics already installed. She is the pride and future that every adult in the ranching industry hopes to see sometime in their life time. To be a success in today’s world it takes a lot of the traits we already see in Sydney. It doesn’t happen overnight. Encouragement and a good example from dedicated parents set the stage for success in life. Children learn to work and enjoy it by example. And livestock provide a solid opportunity for learning with life lessons in hard work, caring, consideration, diligence and respect. Most importantly, children learn hands on how to put someone or something ahead of themselves.