Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pig Finale and 7 random Fair things

We are now piggie-less, but not penniless.  The kids sold their market hogs in the 4-H auction at the fair, and walked away with enough money to get started raising a steer for next year.

I'm so thankful to all of the faithful buyers who come to the sale every year and support these kids by purchasing an animal.  There are still good people out there that restore our faith in humanity... and many of them sit in the bleachers of 4-H auctions. ;)

I'm always sad to see the hogs go because they have a high entertainment value with all of their antics and hilarious personalities, but I will not miss the feed bill. Nope. Not one bit.

For the last two years, the kids have purchased local hogs from our county, and this year the hogs each placed 6th in their weight classes.  That's enough to put them in the higher end of the show, and also put the kids near the beginning of the auction.  But it's not enough to place in the top 3.  All of this year's winners were purchased out of state.  Our dilemma with this is that out-of-state hogs cost much more money to buy, and then you have to tack on the fuel and travel expense to go pick them up.  In the end, our little county fair doesn't generate the sales prices to make it profitable.  Folks who buy their pigs out of state are purely in it for the competition, and the ribbon...not for the money.  

In our county, 7 year olds can't raise and sell a market hog, but they can use their sibling's hog to enter into a pee-wee showmanship class. I'm kicking myself for not bringing a camera that day, but it was a hilarious sight, to say the least.  There were pigs running amok all over the show ring with little cowpokes chasing them in a scene of mass chaos.  Our littlest girl was smiling like crazy and looking right at the judge with her pig front and center, and then proceeded to nearly take the judge's eyeball out with her pig whip.  He couldn't stop laughing, and neither could we. It was hilarious. Everyone got a "special person" ribbon in that class because it's hard to give places to a class that bad. The judge spoke to every one of the kids and they all felt like they were the winners. HA! So funny.

In other fair news, our daughter's sewing projects all brought home 1st place ribbons in their prospective categories. She was very excited about this because she worked really hard this year.

Here were her prize winning projects:

Velvet pumpkins, lined makeup bags with zippers, and a ruffled apron.

Seven more things about the fair:

1. I had to share my funnel cakes with the family, which I did begrudgingly because they were $6.00 a piece. Highway robbery.

2. There was a grasshopper plague of biblical proportions on the night of the demolition derby and the arena lights were swarming with grass hoppers so thick, you couldn't take a step without killing a few.  Totally weird.

3. The "Carnies" in charge of the Ferris Wheel stopped us at the top and left us up there for 10 minutes so we could have a bird's eye view of the demolition derby without having to pay to watch it. With all those grasshoppers in the stands, I'm glad I wasn't a paying customer.

4.  My children talked all week about a certain boat ride called "Pharaoh's Revenge" that swung them back and forth through the air.  All they wanted to do was ride that ride.  Then, when the time came for us to go to the carnival, they sprinted to the front of the line with all of their friends. Once the ride started, they were convinced they were going to fall to their death with each swinging pass.  The look of sheer terror on their faces told me that they wouldn't be riding that ride again anytime in the near future. If only I had a camera.

5. When we go to the fair, it's so far away that we have to pull a camper and stay at the KOA with the rest of our club.  At home, it was pouring down rain every single day, but at the KOA, it was sunny and 20 degrees warmer.  The kids spent all their free time swimming at the outside pool for the last time this summer.  Tonight we are calling for freezing temperatures, but the kids are still sporting their KOA tans from the fair.

6. My least favorite day of the fair is the day of the auction. I get so nervous for my kids, praying they get a good price for the animals they worked so hard to raise. After it's all said and done, there is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and then I can completely relax and enjoy the rest of the exhibits and booths. I even made an impulsive purchase on a new pair of jeans I saw at one of the booths.

7.  We're so exhausted from the fair that we need a month to recover.  It takes a full year of preparation and practice, and it all comes down to one giant marathon week of competition.

Thankful it's over but feeling quite blessed,


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Shiny New Buckle!

Well folks, the underdogs were victorious AGAIN!

Our boy was really excited to compete in the roping, ranch, and speed events at the fair. After enduring the stuffy horse show wearing a scarf tie on the previous Saturday, he was ready to let loose and have some fun doing the things he loves.

It paid off BIG time for him.

You're looking at this year's first place winner of the ranch competition, and the Reserve Grand Champion of the roping and ranch events.

He won his very first buckle, and this is only the second time he's competed in these events.

I was the obnoxious super-fan whooping and hollerin' from the grand stands.

"That a BABY!"

"That's my BOY!"

He had an entire series of challenges to complete in under 5 minutes for the ranch events.

He started off by roping his calf on the very first loop. 

 Next, he had to ride over to a railroad tie and drag it with a rope dallied to the horse from one cone to another.

Then he had to cross a bridge, cross some logs, back up in an L shape without stepping out of the logs, trot to a cone, lope a figure 8 with flying lead changes, come to a sliding stop, back the horse several steps, and then head over to the corral pen.

Once there, he had to open the gate, cut out two steers and push them out of the pen, (all while riding his horse).  Last, he had to exit the gate and the time stopped when he latched it closed atop his horse.

There were tons of kids competing against him, but very few that completed the challenge in the time allowed.  Even fewer roped their calf on the first loop, and fewer still could work the gate on horseback.

I held my breath in the stands as our son completed each task nearly flawlessly.  When he closed the gate with time to spare, I knew he would be in one of the top placings, and we were tickled when he won the buckle.

The biggest surprise came later that evening with the speed events.  At our fair, both boys and girls do all of the events in order to accumulate points for the all-around. The speed events are tough because most of the kids that compete are also in Jr. Rodeo, or high school rodeo, and travel the state every weekend to compete on fast horses.  We only do these things at the fair, and so the kids haven't really mastered any sort of technique.

Nonetheless, our son got 3rd place in the barrel racing on our ranch horse, beating out all those cute girls with sparkles.  Huge surprise! We didn't know that Cade could run that fast, or that our boy could get him around the barrels so quickly.  He really let him go on the homestretch, and Cade had another gear that we hadn't discovered, yet. HA!

Our poor girls had to run barrels on old Jake and he just doesn't have the speed, anymore. But they looked precious out there!

It's funny because the same horse that led our son to glory, also brought him the agony of defeat in pole bending when he refused to enter the arena gate.  That stubborn horse just wouldn't go in, and unlike a rodeo, there are lots of rules about how the horse enters the arena at the fair.  They can't come in alongside another horse,  and can't be led in by an adult. There's a white chalk line that the kids have to be standing in alone just outside the gate before their name is called, and Cade gets all worked up when he knows he's doing speed events. We couldn't even back him into the arena.  My son was wrongly told he could walk Cade in the gate and then get on him, but was promptly disqualified when he did.

Ah well. Live and learn.

For the final event, he decided to not chance a disqualification, and elected to ride Old Jake for the goat tying.  

 Even on that slow horse, he placed 4th.  He missed the top three by one tenth of a second. Not too bad for riding a 35 year old horse!

When we got back to the camper that night, our son fell asleep grinning from ear to ear with his new buckle on the pillow beside him.

He wore his buckle for the rest of the week at the fair, and I think he walked just a little bit taller. :)

One thing's for certain, 12 year old girls really dig 12 year old boys with shiny new buckles. HA!

 More county fair results to come,


Monday, September 9, 2013

County Fair Horse Show

 I'm slowly recovering from this weekend's grueling 2 day horse show.  Our Saturday morning started at 5:00am and we got home at 11:30pm.  The kids always have a ton of fun, but it's absolutely exhausting for the parents.

This year, we came home with 6 ribbons; each of our kids won 2.  I'm beaming with pride about this because the show was HUGE with very stiff competition in all categories. I'm doubly excited because my kids are always the underdogs. It's only their 2nd year in 4-H and they are still learning the exhausting amount of rules and technique for all of the events...hand placement, pattern memorization, lead changes at the proper time, bit rules, tack rules, etiquette, judge acknowledgement, and on and on.

You know I'm always rooting for the under-dog at these things, and we were definitely the underdogs with old, unregistered horses, rolling in with the stock trailer and working ranch saddles. Meanwhile,  people drove in with their 5 horse slant with living quarters, expensive sparkly outfits with matching saddle pads for every event, high dollar well bred horses, and tack covered in silver.

In the end, the glitz doesn't matter. It's all about the horsemanship.

Our son has been a real sport about these horse shows this year. To put it mildly, they are not his favorite things to do, but he plays the game because they are necessary if he wants to be in the running for the "all-around" in points.  Plus, all of these events are making him a much better rider.  His favorite things will come later this week when we compete in the ranch events, and timed events.

I was up until midnight the night before the show, sewing him a scarf for the next morning when I realized he had nothing to match his shirt.

While our kids were waiting for the trail class to begin, the weather changed, and it was a perfect storm for a wreck.  The wind was blowing dirt sideways.  Lawn chairs were flying through the air to spook horses,  the boards with the patterns on them were flying through the air, lightning was around, trains were passing while blowing their whistles... a great recipe for disaster.

Our Cade used to be a barrel racing horse before we got him, and although he's a fabulous horse, he gets worked up going through arena gates.  He calms down once he's in the arena, but he always thinks he's going to be running barrels when he enters the gate.  We've been working on this issue with him, but with all of the weather craziness, he was pretty worked up and reared several times before entering the arena.  My son schooled him and calmed him down, but it was a nail-biter for me to watch. Once he started the trail pattern, he was fine.

My son couldn't hide his excitement when he completed the course and successfully opened and closed the rope gate.  At this age, completion of the gate obstacle makes the difference between winning and losing. Although Cade touched a few logs, they still managed to bring home a 5th place ribbon. He also brought home a ribbon in western riding.

 Our girl did fabulous in showmanship, taking 4th place, and also won a ribbon in bareback.  Bareback was the last event of the night, and it was pouring down rain, sideways.  Having kids on horses in the driving rain with nothing to hang on to is crazy nerve-wracking for moms.  But the kids and horses did great.  I don't have any pictures of it because I didn't want to ruin my camera.

 The class sizes were HUGE. My lens couldn't capture the fact that the entire arena was filled with horses from one end to the other. I think the judges had their work cut out for them.

The night before, our littlest daughter had her pee-wee horse show.  She did fabulous, and placed in 2 out of three classes. She got second place in showmanship, and fourth in trail.  I somehow managed to forget to sign her up for horsemanship, and I was kicking myself because she would have done really well in that class, too.

My husband and I can't help but wonder how the kids would do if they had some younger horses. Let's face it, there are some things that our old Jake just can't do anymore, nor would we ask it of him. He hates the right lead, and can't do sliding stops anymore. That hurts the kids' scores in certain events.  Cade can do it all, but he's only one horse, and we have three kids. Jake is still a perfect fit for our baby, but she only has one more year as a pee-wee before she has to do sliding stops, too.

Ah, decisions, decisions.

Now we have two days of rest, and then we load the horses and hogs up for five more days of competition in ranch events, barrel racing, goat tying, pole bending, livestock showing, pig judging, auction, livestock judging, and heptathlon.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Prepping for the next long haul,


Tuesday, September 3, 2013


It was a glorious morning. The sun was peaking over the horizon, and the earth was saturated from an angry night of driving rain.  Heavy dew droplets glistened on the grass, and the trees, still water-logged from the pounding storm, were dripping with moisture.

We saddled up, just the two of us, and headed out for an early morning ride.  Alone with the man I love; no kids to watch, no cattle to tend to, no phone service, and no agenda.  We headed east across the meadow as the forest awakened, and rode out with fresh horses and nothing but time on our hands.

That sounds like the perfect beginning to a really good day, doesn't it?

Would you believe that we nearly managed to de-rail the whole thing because of our vast differences when it comes to expectations?  That's right, we suffered from the age-old stereotypical battle between men and women.

 I have come to realize that the very same traits that made me fall madly in love with the man who gave me his last name, are on occasion, the same things that drive me absolutely bonkers.

My vision and expectation for our morning ride: A leisurely stroll through the meadows, riding side by side, having meaningful conversation, discussing the future, stopping to take in the views, and snapping magazine worthy shots of the breath-taking scenery that unfolded around us.

His vision and expectation for our morning ride: To adventurously ride up to the top of the mountain, see what's on the other side, and then conquer the next mountain, all the while remaining utterly and completely silent so as not to scare off any wildlife that we might happen upon.

Our ride got off to a vertical start as we began to switch-back up the mountain, blazing our own path through trees so thick, the sun never shines between them.  I quickly began to resent riding behind my husband as branches whipped me in the face and arms repeatedly. I was trying my best to avoid decapitation by pine boughs while simultaneously remaining focused on the steep, rocky terrain.  There was a labyrinth of downed logs to ride over and around. At times I felt as though I was riding through a giant game of pick-up-sticks, only the sticks were made of dead timber.  After what seemed like an endless ride through Robinhood's Sherwood Forest, we made it to the top. Only there was no breath-taking view; no magazine cover shot or iphone pic to send to friends with the caption, "Wish you were here."


The phrase, "I couldn't see the forest for the trees" took on a whole new meaning.

So we unceremoniously sloughed back down the mountain, carefully choosing our way, concentrating on the obstacles around us, trying to avoid getting an eye poked out by the thick brush.  When we reached the base of the mountain, my husband was quite pleased with the whole experience, while I was busy picking sticks and pine needles out of my hair.  I may have uttered a few unkind words about the fact that there were no meadows, no scenic photo-ops, and no level ground to stop my horse on so I could drop my reins and take a picture of the deep, dark, woods.  My husband wanted an adventure, and he got one, but I nearly ruined it for him by nagging him the whole time.

But the truth is, I craved relaxation and inspiration... not an adrenaline rush.  I was desperate to engage in conversation with another grown-up after spending the whole week teaching three little kids.  I could care less about whether or not the elk and turkeys could hear us coming. I just needed to chat.  "Chatting" may be my husband's least favorite thing to do.  He's normally a man of few words, but he obliged me, anyway.

Once he realized that I just wanted to ride through the meadow, he set aside his aspirations for world mountain domination, and we took a different route.  We soaked up the sun and the beauty of the countryside as our horses crossed trickling creeks and puddles in the meadows.

We compromised. He got a little adventure, and I got a little relaxation, and we were able to salvage the ride.

Mornings just don't get any prettier, and opportunities to ride without the kids are a rarity. I'm thankful for every minute I get to spend with my husband. Despite our vast differences in expectations, we were able to meet in the middle, and it made all the difference.