This article was recently published in the Purple Circle magazine.
A while back, I saw an interesting conversation on Facebook that had people pretty polarized. It all started when a mom suggested she was encouraging her children not to show animals so that their family could go on a vacation to Disneyworld.
Now, let me make clear up front, I am all for everyone making their own decisions for their own family. It is fine by me if someone wants to make different decisions for her family than I do for mine. I am sure that Disneyworld is a lovely place.
But that said….I’ll take the stock show.
Growing up, we did not go on family vacations. We went to stock shows. And while I’ve never been to Disneyworld, I’m pretty sure that the roller coaster rides, churros, and fake mouse ears can’t replace what the stock shows gave me.
At those stock shows (and the months leading up to them), I learned what it meant to work hard. My brother and I got up early, went to bed late, busted our tails in between dealing with weights and drench guns and feed regiments and wash racks. I also learned that not everyone worked that way. I remember countless times at our State Fair it would be 8:00 at night when I would come into the dorms covered in feed and hay and manure and lord knows what else, while some of the other girls would be all dressed up, make up on, and hair fixed. And while I can’t say that it happened this way all the time, but I lot of the time it was those of us who spent the week covered in manure who ended up smiling come the end of show day. That was not a bad thing for a kid to learn.
At those stock shows, I learned that I had a group of adults who were in my corner who became like family to me. There were women who would haul in enough food for an army and be sure that we didn’t go hungry by dishing out posole and beans from a crock pot in the tack pen. There were men who helped sheer my sheep and haul our show boxes in and out and had no problem telling me if I wasn’t doing something right. There was an ag teacher that became one of my very favorite people in the world with his glare for people who showed up late for feeding, and his Rainman-like remembering of the weights of seriously every lamb in the barn, and his uncanny ability to sniff out coffee somewhere in the barn before anyone else was even awake to make it.
At those stock shows, I made friends from across the state. Friends who have known me since I was 10 years old and who are still in my life 25 years later. Friends whose babies I have held and funerals I have attended and beside whom I have proudly stood at weddings. Friends who I never would have met were it not for the yearly “family vacation” to a stock show.
At those stock shows, we spent quality time with our family. After one particularly long, and I mean LONG night at the barn, that I’m fairly sure involved my dad breaking his toes after kicking something, I remember him saying that we might look back at parts of this showing deal and remember the fights, but we’d also look back and always remember him being there. Decades later, I can tell you he was right. I remember the fights for being funny now, but I remember all of the time and money and sacrifice that he and my mom made so that we could go to those stock shows. And that was a gift that is priceless in my mind.
There are certainly more lessons that shows taught me. Competitiveness. Being a humble winner and a gracious loser. That maybe there really is something to lucky shirts and lucky halters. Nothing beats the smell of sawdust and Revive. That life is not always fair. What it felt like to be handed that bright purple banner and shiny belt buckle.
So, all this to say….I’m sure Disneyworld is great. But I’ll take the stock show. Every single time.