A Prairie Notebook

It's time to brave the sheep show again

When I was a little girl, probably about 12, I painted a metal mailbox into the likeness of an American flag.
White stars on a blue background surrounded the front of the box, and red and white stripes trailed off to the back. It was one of my most memorable projects to enter in 4-H Achievement Days in the county where I grew up. I worked so hard on that project and can still remember taping off the colors and being so careful to make it look perfect.
I really can’t tell you what I got for a ribbon. Perhaps a purple or top ribbon. But it might have been a blue or a red.
It didn’t matter. I loved that mailbox and wish I still had it.
I spent years in 4-H, beginning at age 8 and graduating at 18. I was in lots of other activities in school and church, but 4-H gave me skills that to this day I rely on in so many ways as an adult.
I can cook and bake because of 4-H, and while not everything is purple-ribbon quality, most of it is pretty good. I learned about using the rule of thirds in taking photos, something that I try and do for my job, even though my boss likely says it’s an area that could use a little improvement.
I still garden, a hobby I learned from my mother when I grew vegetables for judging. I’m fairly crafty and willing to try all sorts of new projects.
I never got to enter animals as a child, but I did have a rabbit and other pets. I don’t remember those even being something kids showed back in the 1970s, but they are popular divisions now.
Through all of those experiences, I learned to become a good consumer and judge of what determines quality. It’s one reason when my three children were old enough, I enrolled them in 4-H and became a club leader. I wanted them to earn those life skills and loved helping other kids explore new experiences.
My oldest was eager to try every project area suggested and may have been a bit of a mini-me, entering way too many exhibits. He loved doing them and was really successful at it over the years, earning 4-H trips to Washington, D.C., for all of his efforts. My other two were interested in specific areas such as woods, welding, photography, baking and arts and crafts, but they also liked poultry, dogs, cats and sheep.
I was pretty happy with all of that, except for the sheep.
Don’t get me wrong, they were fun to raise, miraculous to witness giving birth and loving when they wanted to come in my back entry. Yes, they sometimes playfully pranced through the house as babies.
But by the time they were old enough to halter break and train to do the job sheep need to do at the fair, it was murder. At least that is what the sheep thought.
Sheep, it seems, believe you are killing them when you slip a halter on them and try and lead them. Ours would flop on the ground, bleating as loudly as possible. Their eyes would glaze over as if they were in a stupor. It was in a word HORRIBLE. I hated it. My son hated it. The sheep obviously weren’t fans.
Next came the sheering, which we naively tried to do with some dads in the area helping us. But as soon as you accidentally cut a sheep and cause it to bleed, even a little bit, it again thinks the end is in sight. My son didn’t really have a stomach for it, and we all just felt bad by the time we looked at the less than coifed animal. Finally, we figured out it is fine to let a professional shear them so that we could spend our time bathing, feeding and leading.
Preparing for the sheep show worked out fine in the end, and we had lots of fun as a family at the fair.
This week is a good chance to check out what Moody County 4-Hers have to show for their hard work. I plan to be there, even at the sheep show.

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