The Life of the Stock Show Sibling
As the middle sibling in a trio of three girls, I have always been able to show alongside one or both of my sisters throughout my entire junior career. During my older sister’s first years showing, you bet I was that little sister trying to help. I’d “work hair” with her, but brush it the wrong way. I’d help wash her calves, but end up giving my sister more of a bath than them. Sometimes, if I was really lucky, I got to walk the steers out of the barn to their lot at night. (Little did I know, they knew the way so well that it wasn’t necessary for anyone to hold the halter.) Many evenings, I stood in the middle of our yard and served as “the judge” while my sister and one or both of my parents circled cattle around me. Regardless, I most definitely considered myself to be the #1 Barn Helper.
Helper Upgraded to Showman
Fast forward a few years, and I’m ready to get my first project underway. (I’d had my fair share of practice in the Kiddie Showmanship competitions at the county fair, but I was ready for the serious stuff now.) My dad had some reservations about a little blonde girl dragging around - or being dragged around by - a full-grown steer or heifer, so he politely suggested that I consider something smaller. He had his way, and not long after, two bouncing lambs had made their way into our barn. (Honestly, this is probably how most families end up exhibiting more than one specie. Darn little kids, I tell ya.)
I had my two sheep and I was the happiest kid around. My older sister could finally work with her cattle in peace, because “I had my lambs”. My little sister often helped me attempt to exercise and train the lambs, and I’m sure my parents had more than a few laughs watching the two of us and those first two sheep. But little did they know, our little cattle operation would have to make room for a lot more sheep in the years to come.
Siblings in Sync
When a group of people works together for a long period of time, it’s only natural that they begin to function as a well-oiled machine. This was certainly the case for my sisters and I, and I’ve witnessed the same in many other sets of siblings that show together. Once the three of us were all old enough to show and safely handle our livestock by ourselves, our parents did something that I can’t ever thank them enough for - they left us in charge. The three of us were responsible for morning and evening chores, cleaning barn, working hair, exercising sheep and everything in between. Ultimately, they left us in charge of our success. I’m not saying that they didn’t help us, because they most definitely did - but we were the ones who had to find the drive to wake up and work for what we wanted. I’m sure they witnessed us making mistakes or missing opportunities, but I am so thankful that they chose to bite their tongues and let us figure that out ourselves. In today’s livestock world, this is the most important lesson I’d encourage parents to teach.
Yes, you want your kids to succeed, but first let them learn how to fail. Don’t force your desire to win on them, but instead let the drive for excellence root itself in your kids and then pursue that passion together.
For that lesson, my sisters and I will forever thank our parents. As time went on, we asked questions and learned what it takes to win classes instead of standing third or fourth. Instead of the youngest sister serving as the “judge”, we now had to tell our dog to lay in the middle of the worn-out circle in our lawn that served as the “ring”. The three of us could exercise ten lambs, wash and work hair on a set of cattle, clean barn and still spare a few moments to sing along to our favorite songs on the radio.
On show day, we could prep lambs or fit cattle without saying a word to each other. We knew that I fit legs on the sheep, my little sister does the tailheads on the cattle, and my older sister is the one who walks the headstrong cattle. (Totally an oldest sibling thing, am I right?) It’s what the three of us did, and we, like many other stock show siblings, took pride in doing it together.
The End of an Era
Fast forward over ten years of road trips, ribbons, tears, laughs, losses and victories, I’m 21 years old. My junior show career is over, and so is my older sister’s. My little sister is now heading into her last year as a junior and it’s still hard for me to believe. Sure, my older sister and I still go to shows and help her prep her sheep and cattle, but we now have to take the rope halters from her and accept our spots on the side of the ring.
Our hearts are still out there with her every time she steps in the ring. If she gets complimented for the way she holds her lamb’s ears, we nudge each other and joke about who told her to do it that way. If she forgets her back tag, we’ll blame each other for not reminding her to wear it. No matter what, the three of us will always be in this together - and that’s the beauty of stock show siblings.
So here’s to the stock show siblings out there - there’s truly no better way to be raised. And, here’s to the stock show parents, who know that the best way to prepare children for success is to raise them in the livestock industry.