Friday, September 3, 2010

The Smell of Cattle, Hay and Anticipation

The week has been a whirlwind. A mid-week trip to Fayetteville in order to present a trophy in my sister's memory has left my mind wrapped up in my teen years. Dad and I (and later Amelia and Grandad) found ourselves at the Washington County Fairgrounds once again. It had been years since I had stepped foot onto the site, and yet, as I walked into the barn, the smell of cattle, hay, and anticipation assaulted my nostrils as to say, 'welcome home.'

It had been home to me for at least 8 years. My first show heifer was Dolly and she was a sweet thing to put up with me, me being a green thing who didn't know the first thing about cattle. I didn't know the difference between a heifer and a Hereford and I was too embarrassed to ask.

I finally figured out that a heifer was a female that had never had a calf and that a Hereford was simply a breed. Through those 8 years, I managed to learn enough to win showmanship awards, state quiz bowls, grooming awards, and grand championships with heifers, bulls, and steers.

The fairgrounds was where God knit my heart deeper with my Dad's. We would unload all of our equipment and cattle, and I knew that it was me and him against the world for those few days. All of our hard work was going to come to fruition. Sure, our whole family was involved, but to me, it was always just me and Dad.

And so, as I inhaled the smell of cattle, hay and anticipation, tears wanted to creep out of certain crevices. Because coming home sometimes hurts. Because you didn't realize how much you missed it. Because you are just now seeing the importance of how that home shaped you. Because God doesn't allow you to lay your head on that pillow anymore...that He gave you a different path and a different life. Because the memories of those days are enough to make you cry, whether it be from the good times or the bad.

As we became mere spectators, I saw myself in the children and teenagers that were exhibiting that night. I was the little 11 year old girl with her hair pulled back tightly who had utter confidence as she stepped into the ring. I was that same girl as her heifer got away and tears rolled down her cheeks not only from the embarrassment, but also from the pain that the chains left as they were yanked out of her hands.

I was the teenage boy who started laughing as his heifer started eating his blue sale order slip. I was that same boy that would later allow her to lick my hands, loving the rough texture of her tongue on my skin.

I was the teenage girl who knew it was her year to shine in the steer show. All of the countless hours of trying to grow the steer's hair in the hot summer months would surely pay off this night. All of the countless hours of praying to God to allow a victory would surely pay off this night. I was the same girl as she grinned from ear to ear when her steer was slapped grand champion.

I was the young brunette boy with dimples who talked as country as they come. I chided my friend for not combing my heifer the correct way and then proceeded to tell him how to go about such a fine art. I was the same adorable boy who smiled all over himself when his heifer was named supreme champion. I was the same boy looking at my father, making sure I had her set up correctly. I was the same boy who took home a trophy bigger than my own frame.

And, all the sudden, I was myself. Not the thirty three year old, but, the thirteen year old version of myself standing beside the biggest crush of my showing days. He also went by the name of Eric, and he somehow managed to hold onto my heart for those years without ever doing a thing to capture it. (I pretty much despised him for that, too...holding my heart captive!) Now as grownups with spouses we love and children we dote on, we laughed about the good ol' days, when we apparently held hands for a whole hour at the State Fair and when he slung me over his back, hauling me to the wash rack in order to soak me down with a water hose. Ahhh, young love. Well, at least on my part, anyway.

Showing cattle, the fair, the joys and the just can't get it unless you've done it. So, as I helped Amelia and Dad present a trophy in memory of Kiley to that young love's own son, I was thankful to God for those days. Days of driving to the barn, washing, grooming, feeding, showing, and so forth kept me out of a lot of trouble during my teen years. God knew I wasn't going to be an athlete, and so he gave me something else that would put my Dad and I on the same page. God used those days to groom in me a healthy respect for my Dad and an appreciation of his authority in my life.

I will forever be thankful.

And, yes, heaven will smell like cattle, hay, and anticipation that has finally been realized. It will be the smell of coming home.


Michelle said...

That is just too sweet! Beautifully written Becke

Anonymous said...

Thank you for walking your Dad and I down memory lane in such a beautifully written way. (Made your Daddy tear up!)
If parents out there could read that, there would be a lot of them wanting their kids to experience the joys, hard work, and rewards of cattle showing.
And thanks for always putting your heart into showing. You always made us proud.... still do
We love you, Mom and Dad