White Knuckles and a Ringside Seat

My Generation

Our daughter's first cattle show didn't go exactly as planned, and this Mom learned what it was like to watch it all unfold. From outside the ring.

Published on: June 11, 2012

So, last week I shared that we were off to our oldest child's first-ever cattle show, which we happened to be pretty excited about. And you know how you read those glowing blog posts with sunkissed photos and reports of joy and perseverance and hard work all paying off?

Well. This isn't one of them.

I would say that our day at the Cuba Livestock Show was about as close to worst-case-scenario that we could get, barring any actual ER visit.  

The day started off well. Nathan showed his little bottle calf, Buddy. It was as adorable as you might expect a ring full of little kids and little calves to be. Slightly chaotic but only in a clustered-up sort of way. Not in a calves-leaping-and-kicking sort of way. Dick Burns, of the greater Kickapoo area, judged and told all the kids to be sure and thank their parents – and their grandparents – for getting them there that day and for making it possible for them to even have this kind of lifestyle. "You all are some of the very few kids in the entire world who get to have this kind of an experience," he told them. Amen.

Then Jenna showed her heifer, Granite. Granite is a reasonably laid-back Simmental-Angus cross heifer. We've worked with her endlessly. But for some reason that day, the Angus in her (and I say that as a die-hard Shorthorn girl who did not get her way in the heifer selection department) came on full strong. She didn't act terrible, but she wasn't exactly easy to show. The judge even commented as much- and complimented Jenna on doing such a good job with her.

Before long, it was time for the steer show. Jenna took Gus into the ring. Somewhere on the first lap, he stepped square on her right boot. I could see she wanted to cry but she didn't. I had my eye on the steer next to her, though. He was acting pretty ornery and was being shown by another first-timer. Sure enough, as they pulled up after being placed, that steer tried to mount Gus. In the cluster that ensued, the steer kicked Jenna in the side as he mounted Gus and for a brief and fleeting but ever-lastingly long second, I thought the two steers were going to come on top of her. There's a fair chance my nephew still has finger marks on his arm because he had the unfortunate luck of standing next to me during all of this.

However, John and the ringman stepped in, grabbed the steers and got Jenna out of there. She was crying but OK, and I wound up being that Mom who's escorting her poor injured child out of the ring. We went back and iced her foot and checked out the hoof-sized bruise that was already forming on her side. And even through her tears, she was insisting, "I still (sob) want (sob) to do (sob) showmanship!" I've hardly been so proud.

And so she did. And then the heifer stepped on the same foot as the steer did. And then she was done. And so were we. The show was over. Done.

Back home, she is bruised and recovering but still gung-ho. Her foot is a shade of blue and purple I don't recall mine ever turning, even after the worst of getting tromped on. Her side is progressing through all the shades of bruising. "I've got a good story to tell, though," she says.

As I've reflected on the day, there's a single thought that keeps coming to mind: that I have spent every ounce of my energy over the past nine years keeping this child safe and healthy. A constant vigil of diet and safety precautions. Then we take a thousand pound animal, tie a rope to it and hand it to this precious and small child and say, "go on out there!"

What kind of crazy people are we? For real.

I'm sure there's a logical answer to that. I just haven't come up with it yet.