Don't Give Up On That Stubborn Show Animal.
Winter is on its way, with typically cold and dreary weather with lots of snow and not a lot of shine. Most days I want to be curled up on the couch with a blanket and book or playing Monopoly with friends, but this was a different sort of winter day. Dad rolled in the driveway with the trailer in tow and I knew my next challenge had arrived. The back door of the trailer opened, and I saw my new best friend. He was a short, stocky steer that was just waiting to walk into his new home.
I decided to name him Boardwalk (remember I said I liked to play Monopoly earlier?) As the weeks went on it was becoming clear to me that he was not a huge fan of me, my dad, or his new home. Walking through Boardwalk’s side of the barn was not an option and whenever we would get close he would come after us. Most of my fellow 4-Hers were halter breaking their show steers and I was not even able to look my animal in the eye. The time came where I had to start asking myself if he was worth it. Was I going to take a season off from showing? How would I afford to buy a new animal and so quickly?
One spring day when I got home from school I decided to go sit in the barn. I grabbed a couple handfuls of grass and flipped the nearest bucket upside down. Boardwalk and I made eye contact for a long while before I reached my hand out with the grass in it. After what felt like hours he took a step towards my hand. Eventually getting close enough to stick his tongue out to reach the grass, he took it and backed up quickly. I was in complete shock and hurriedly picking up another handful of grass, stuck my hand out once again. To my surprise Boardwalk’s steps came faster than before and this time he did not back away. I had been very close on giving up on this amazing animal, but I now saw a gap in his stubbornness.
I continued to work with Boardwalk throughout the entire show season and our bond grew tremendously until he became one of my favorite show animals. Never would I have imagined that the steer who would not let me near him the first four months of his time at the farm would lead me to an unforgettable summer of traveling, showing, and finishing it off with Reserve Grand Champion at my county’s fair.
Something changed in both Boardwalk and me. In those days of holding my hand through his gate with grass I learned what patience really was. Boardwalk learned what trust was and all it took was for me to take a few steps back and give him time. There are many animals out there like Boardwalk who need those few extra minutes a day. If you have enough patience and time to put into an animal, then do not pass up the opportunity to turn something stubborn into something extraordinary. Boardwalk was by far the greatest animal I ever worked with and I would not trade the stubbornness in the beginning for anything. All animals have a story to tell, and you could be missing out.