Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Beginning of a New Tradition

Most all of our "vacations" revolve around our love for our kids and cattle in some way shape or form. Yesterday the whole family loaded up and headed west to Grand Island, Nebraska for the Junior National Hereford Expo.  This is what we lovingly refer to as a "show-cation" by those of us bit by the livestock show bug. A "show-cation" involves early mornings, late nights, lots of physical labor, old friends and new, laughs, a few tears and oh, and it generally leaves you with two feelings by the end of the trip; "Ah, I love this life!" and "Man, I need a vacation!"

The Junior National Hereford Expo is arguably the Greatest Show on Earth and this year we are breaking records with over 2000 head of Hereford cattle entered by exhibitors ages 7-20 from all across the United States. There are also over 20 educational contests and a week full of fun and learning for all in attendance. The location changes from year to year and in 2016, Wisconsin will host the show for the first time since 2005. 

Our oldest can exhibit for the first time at Junior Nationals next year in Madison. This year though, she is participating in the pre-peewee showmanship contest.  The Pre-Peewee Showmanship is for the kids not quite old enough to exhibit their own cattle (but want to!) and are given the chance to shine on this grand stage right along side the older kids they are surely looking up to.  I have heard more than one person say that it is their favorite part of the show; seeing those little ones out there showing everyone how it is done!  Pure joy!

This is undoubtedly the beginning of a new tradition, as our family vacation will take us near and far across the country with a cattle trailer instead of a camper.  Boots instead of flip-flops.  Forks and shovels instead of marshmallow roasting sticks.  And we wouldn't have it any other way.  

Stay tuned this week as we experience Hereford Nation in Nebraska!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Living the Dream

A long time ago, Tod and I made a goal/dream of bringing our own cattle with our own prefix on them to Denver.  We didn't know when the time would be right or if it would ever be right but it was definitely a stage we had hoped to walk on some day.  The possibility became a little more realistic for us after our 2014 calf crop began to arrive and take shape and we discussed all spring and summer that this MIGHT be the year we give it a go. 

What lie ahead of us from there on out was unknown.  A lot of unknown.  What we did know was how little we knew!  As we began to discuss the trip, we questioned our sanity more often than not.  Everything we THOUGHT or PLANNED on turned out different than we had expected.  From the heifers we would take to how the sale went on Friday night; not a single, solitary detailed went as planned.  Now I'm the first to admit, I'm as hard headed as they come but I'm not a fool.  I can learn.  And boy did we ever. We asked for help and probably alienated every connection we had that had been an exhibitor in the yards before us.  And you know what, every single one of them was as helpful as we hoped.  The tips.  The tricks of getting in and out of there.  How to set up our pen.  What to bring and what to just buy there instead of hauling 1000 miles...I cannot even begin to count the number of questions we asked and the pieces of information that trickled in over a 4 or 5 month period that when all put together, made us not feel (or look, in my humble opinion) like the first timers we were.  Are there things we would change now after having been through it once ourselves??  I think there are some notes we have made that might make things a little less chaotic but overall; the time leading up to and while in Denver has been grand champion caliber in our books to say the least.

So the Readers Digest version of the trip goes something like this:  We spent 10 nights away from our children, farm and jobs to try and make a dream come true.  We took 7 head (2 pens of 3 heifers and one Charlie the bull).  I will be frank; this was a ridiculous undertaking.  We have kind of always realized this but what made this doable was our crew.  Tod and I, a NWSS veteran who wields clippers like few others and 4 young women who make me proud.  The days before and of the show and sale were wild but some first class friends from home (who happened to bring their clippers on the airplane) and some new friends from the Midwest made the whole deal come together in an unexpected way.  That crew afforded Tod and I the opportunity to try and meet and talk to everyone who took the time to come and see us.  Before this year, I don't think we fully realized how much time that would take us and how much we would rely on the rest of our crew to keep our ship afloat.  We also had consigned the choice of our 6 heifers to our national Hereford sale with hopes that the sale would pay for our trip and what we would gain would be experience (and courage) to try it again another year.  

For me, the journey has been an emotional one.  For Tod too although he doesn't wear it on his sleeve like I do.  The kind man who bought our heifer asked me why I was crying (yeah, I cried), "are you happy or are you sad?"  I told him both.  I was sad because he picked the favorite.  The favorite because when all things were considered (with heavy emphasis on her personality) she was the one that was hardest to part with.  She was great for our kids.  She gave our daughter self-confidence with the cattle she had yet to discover and reinforced our son's.  She was the one you could always rely on for the novice.  When the heifers had to be worked and you were short of hands, she was the one that the kids could take without worry.  Explaining that their favorite had a new home left me sad.  I was happy though because everything that Tod and I had dreamed had come true.  And just when you thought it couldn't get any better/bigger, it did.  I was in disbelief that this was all happening.  That people I had literally looked up to my ENTIRE life in this business; whose names I would probably recognize before any professional athlete or pop star were standing in the same group of people as us.  That those people who we look up to (still) were looking seriously at our cattle and that some of them were even helping us throughout the week.  I couldn't believe we had accomplished this dream.  And when I reflected on all of it, what I realized was sad too because our dream of showing in Denver seemed so small then. 

It really was so small compared to everything that was going on around us that we tried so desperately to absorb and take in.  And maybe the most revealing part was that all this time, I realized that what we had dreamed for ourselves maybe wasn't big enough?!  What else are we capable of??!!  More than we ever imagined. 

Happy to have done it all but sad it was all coming to an end.  At least for NWSS 2015 anyway.  We are well aware of the fact that what happened to us in Denver this year may never happen again.  At least not at the magnitude that we felt it.  But the number one question I get now is, will you do it again next year?  After all the work and time and efforts and even the headaches (and heartaches)...will you try it again?  And without hesitation, the answer is yes.