What Closing The Gate Is Really Like

What Closing The Gate Is Really Like

Picture this, it's July 2007 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I was 9 years old with a huge dream: I wanted to win a blue ribbon just like any other kid at the event. This event was the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS) that has over 1800 head of cattle entered to show each year, which are owned by youth all over the country. I knew I didn't have the best heifers at the show, but in all honesty, at my first nationals it was definitely the vision that counted.

I remember the day like it was yesterday, my heifer was fascinated by the plants in the ring and I was a little girl just trying to get her to follow my footsteps instead of making a path of her own. I thought I was strong for my age until I spent 15 minutes trying to get a 1000 pound animal to understand we were doing things my way, not hers. The judge pulled everyone in my class into their placings and although I know I felt that disappointment of being pulled into last place, the amount of determination that ran through me was larger.

I told myself that I was going to strive to sometime before, or at, my last NJAS be on the other end of the class, open the gate and walk out with a blue ribbon in my hand but even at my age I knew that I needed more than luck on my side if this dream was going to come true. I had the ambition to be noticed and to finally win a class at the biggest show I have ever been a part of; all I needed was the hours of hard work and the hours of defeat that would show up again just on schedule.

For six more years I worked harder than ever still hoping for that chance to someday open the gate. Each year I faced defeat but fortunately continued to rise higher and higher in my placing; however, I still saw last place more times than I can count but want for success remained alive. Sure, there were times I probably would have rather sat on a bucket with my hands buried in my face but because I kept working hair and training calves to show. Stepping into the show ring in Kansas City, Missouri in 2013 for my seventh NJAS was more than just a step on sawdust, it was a step closer to my vision.

The week started with my steer placing tenth but still my faith held strong and I took a second go round with one of my heifers who placed fifth. Finally, on the last day I said a silent prayer, for the 9-year-old in me, as I walked my second heifer into the ring; I was hoping that this was a day I would never forget. I remember whispering to Missie, my heifer, to relax but it was not her who needed to keep the nerves down because even though I had the halter in my hand she was the one keeping me standing on my two feet. I was thankful that Missie kept me upright because that day turned out to be the one I had been waiting for since I started showing at the National Junior Angus Show.

I thought my first ever class at junior nationals was long until I stood in that class with Missie. Thankfully she wasn't worried about the plants; she was much more cooperative about following my lead. The judge had his top two in the class narrowed down and thankfully one of those was me. We walked and walked, he paced around us trying to find the slightest of differences between the two heifers. I was getting anxious and suddenly I felt relief as the judge looked at me and put one finger up to signify that I was going to win the class. The 9-year-old girl inside me screamed with joy, but it hadn't hit the 15-year-old me until the blue ribbon was in my hand and Missie and I were greeted with hugs.

So wait, what's the point of me reminiscing about my defeats and successes? Oh yeah, last place is truly one of the best spots to be at least once in your life. I'm more than thankful that I've closed the gate numerous times. Sure, last place means nasty color ribbons instead of blue, but it also means something more than that. Last place has always been the spot that really tested me, the place that has made me think about how much I wanted to succeed in showing cattle. 

Losing truly has been a blessing in my life; I've learned to be a gracious loser and a humble winner. Closing the gate has taught me to give my all at everything I do and never settle for anything less than the goals I have set. Watching 11 showmen and heifers walk out of the ring ahead of me has made me have a stronger work ethic and a larger amount of determination. Winning has felt that much sweeter knowing that I put in tons of hard work and dedication to be in that position. Most importantly, on the days I take one for the team and stand last I have been able to say at least I got to spend another day doing what I love. Of course standing at the top of a competition is always nice, but it isn't going to make us or break us in the end. As long as you're doing what you really love, you'll never lose a day in your life. 

Looking back, last place isn't really that bad.

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