It’s been a long time since I showed 4-H sheep.Those memories were fondly revisited when I covered the York County Fair Sheep, Goat and Dairy Goat Show earlier.
I’m pretty sure I was the worst sheep showman ever, no matter how hard I tried. My polypay sheep and I got along fine on the homestead, but boy, I’ll tell you what – they were a handful during those days at the Fillmore County Fair. I might have received a few blue ribbons, but I most likely got enough red – and white -- ribbons to cover my lambs’ glorified spandex tube tops (used to keep dirt, food and bedding off of them before show).
I bought my lambs from my Aunt Janet and Uncle Frankie. They raised scores of polypays for fiber and meat. I think at highest count they had was about 300 head. The sheep hailed from multiple sources. One memorable occasion Aunt Janet found an ad selling sheep in a farmer’s magazine. It sounded like a good deal, so Janet and a like-minded sheep enthusiast headed far south out-of-state to retrieve a semi-load sheep. Eventually, however, the sheep figured out how to crawl out of the top of the trailer. I’ll go ahead and let you imagine the rest.
The next time the farmers’ magazine came out, Janet grabbed it. As usual she went straight to the sheep ads. There were none – Frankie had cut them all out.
After covering the show, I thought about seeing stacks and stacks of kid-sized burlap sacks of wool, watching Uncle Frankie shear and hearing about Janet and Frankie’s adventures. One of my most vivid memories, however, is from the Lamb’bcue. It was a Cordova community event. There was mutton, mutton everywhere: crockpots of lamb, grill surfaces worth of lamb, smoked lamb. Janet and Frankie always supplied the meat; the other guests brought their best potluck fare. Janet and Frankie’s machine shed would be filled to the brim with fleeces, food, family and friends.
Eventually Janet decided to get her master’s degree and Frankie’s back started bothering him, leading them to liquidate their flock. By that time I had already ceased my sheep-related activities. After showing them, the sheep were auctioned off in the show ring to go to that wonderful meat locker in the sky (Fillmore County Fair tradition). Sheep or no, I loved reading all of the results of the fair in our local paper – how my friends did, my nemeses, my fellow Handy Hands 4-H Club members.
With that in mind, my respect for local newspapers has grown exponentially – here at the York News Times, everyone is always spread pretty thin, but I’ll tell you what: this County Fair stuff is a large (and certainly newsworthy) endeavor, which I could never do on my own. My equally-spread thin coworkers do a lot – more than I do, I’m sure.
Even so, it’s our wonderful Nebraska Extension-York County folks and army of volunteers that amaze me. It takes a very, very special person to organize and orchestrate such an event. Executing a successful fair is far more complicated than people think about (you should).
Covering it for the first time has been rough. Unavoidable situations arise, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I had to take photos out of order -- whenever the kids can get into the winner’s circle. It’s impossible to know everyone right away, as much as I’d like to. People get snarky (though most people were absolutely delightful). I’ve been very frustrated, and I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes.
To be honest, I’ve let the aforementioned issues really bother me; I get how important 4-H is to a kid, and I want everything to be perfect for them. I’m not sure what color of ribbon I earned. I guess what people see in the paper is what they get. As I did in the show ring those many years ago:
I tried my best.