As We Exit the Pig Barn
Walking away this year will be hard. I mean big tears hard. This is my first experience with senior year "lasts." Couple that with the fact that my youngest will no longer settle for pig showing and is adamantly joining her brother in the cattle arena: lots of feelings for me.
Cattle is where we started and it's my husband's first love. Truth be told, it's no surprise our youngest wants to lead an animal instead of drive one because she started hanging out in a cattle barn at birth. Her Uncle has been making deals with her about showing a Hereford since she was old enough to hold on to a lead rope.
When my oldest requested to switch species at the end of 7th grade I thought my husband would be devastated, but instead he jumped right in and we have done both species for the past 5 years. The back half of our cattle barn was quickly converted to pig pens (with the help of our Ag teacher and some great kids in welding class!) and we've added pens over the years with no looking back!
I entered the pig barn and pretty quickly fell in love. I couldn't tell you I'd really loved the stock show life prior to that, but the pig barn was different. It felt like a real family. Everyone ate together, worked together and all our kids became show-day siblings. I was used to cattle where it seemed like everyone stayed more to themselves - maybe a family or two joined up but it's more "every man for himself." Truth be told, cattle showing is a lot of work and there's just not as much down time to "hang out."
Truth also told: things seemed to shift some in our pig barn the last year or so. By the end of OYE last year I was actually pretty happy to move out and get to the cattle barn. There had been some drama and bickering and it just didn't feel like it used to. I was sad and more than a little disappointed about that. You know what, though? That's how family works isn't it? Family members don't always get along and they don't always see eye to eye. It doesn't mean you don't still love each other. It's not much different with show families. So, as we prepare to soon walk away from this thing I've loved so much, I just have a few words of advice for everyone. Take it or leave it!
1. Help. It's easy to forget, when you've been doing this a few years, what it felt like to be "the new kid." Things that are second nature to us now were things we once all had to learn. Be the one who's willing to show the way. Oh, the names I could name here. (In the cattle and pig barns!!) The people who have shared information, hauled our animals, helped us get into sale as alternates, etc, etc!! Be those people to someone any chance you can.
2. Don't rely on any one person. This showing stuff is a team activity... Until it's not. Be willing to help and willing to share, but also know that at the end of the day everyone wants to win. You have to be willing to learn and seek out information and form relationships with people who can help you improve.
3. Look for the disconnected. I'm ashamed to admit until there were moments we felt pushed to the side, we never noticed anyone might feel that way. Look for the people who need to be brought in. I'm not always awesome at this, unfortunately, but I'm trying to make this habit! Find the kids who don't have parents in the barn with them and be a stand-in parent! (Our ag teachers can't be everything to everyone.) Send their parents pictures/videos when they have to work on show day. Look for the family who is off to themselves and just try to make them feel welcome.
4. Keep those old tennis shoes for OYE. Our first year at OYE I wore rubber boots around but there's too much walking for that! My feet were KILLING ME! The second year I wore tennis shoes in the pig barn. Much better. The issue is this: you'll NEVER get the smell out of those shoes. Never, no matter what. So keep an old pair every year, wear them for OYE, then throw those nasty suckers away!
5. Enjoy this time! We aren't anywhere near finished with our years of following kids around in the stock show arenas. But, as quick as these last ten years have flown by, I know it will come sooner than I expect. I also know after this next week I'll never have all three of my kids together in the barns like this. I've taken a million pictures and videos to try to capture these moments in time, but it's still not enough. So, trust me when I tell you to try not to "sweat the small stuff." Savor those wins, but also savor all those little moments just standing around a pen, cutting up, strategizing, and watching your children grow up before your eyes.
The pig barn is where I ended up falling in love with livestock showing. For that, I'll always be grateful. It wasn't the animals and it wasn't the winning. It was the people. So, my biggest piece of advice to all of you is: try to be the reason someone falls in love with this stuff. Teach your kids that their legacy isn't just left in ribbons and buckles. Their legacy, as they leave the show arena for the world, is how they treated everyone around them. They learn that from all of us!
If you ever need anything, just come find me in the cattle barn. Thanks for the memories, pig family! Part of this show Momma's heart will always be in the pig barn.