Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Steer and the Transition

I was a mere 12.  My hot pink Wranglers were hot glued to my skinny legs as I refused to sidestep cow patties that splattered the aisles of the fairground.  The last thing I needed were all the guys around thinking I was a sissy.  This was my first year to show a real live steer.

I was a big girl now.

I had showed a heifer, Dolly, the previous year, but now, steers were a whole new thing.  The big boys played the steer game.  The steers brought more money if you made the sale at the local and state fairs.  So, pink Wranglers aside, I was on a mission.

Bogie was his name.  He was coal black and quite the gentle soul for a preteen to work with.  He was a beast and peaked early.  I was about to figure out the ramifications of exactly what that meant.

While showing, our three main fall shows included the Washington County Fair in Fayetteville, the Arkansas/Oklahoma State Fair in Fort Smith, and the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock.  Each one progressed with competition.  Each one allowed a higher priced auction.  The auction was a way to reward the young kids for all their hard that included washing your cattle daily, breaking ice when the temperatures had dropped, mucking stalls, and feeding them.

Now that I was a big girl, I was a tad nervous about the Arkansas Oklahoma Fair.  I had my eyes set on the Arkansas State Fair which was only a few weeks away.  The AR/OK Fair had a certain rule that didn't set well with my not-so-grown-up mind.  If I were to make auction, then my steer would be headed straight to slaughter and I wouldn't be able to show him anymore.  Now, Bogie was my pal and I still had big dreams for us, which included the State Fair.

So, imagine my surprise when I won my class and then headed back into the ring for the slapping of the Grand Champion.  Dad had forewarned me of the rule and told me that he would leave the decision to me.  If I didn't get chosen as Grand, then I would have the freedom to leave the ring and we would still be able to head to the State Fair later on.

I remember it like yesterday.  My stomach was in knots.  I wasn't one to make a show, but I knew I couldn't let Bogie get chosen that day.  My little mind couldn't conceive of the fact that it just might be the end for him.  Our plans included the State Fair and we were so close!

The judge slapped another steer as Grand, and I hightailed it out of that sawdust covered ring so fast you would have thought they said "BOMB!"  Dad asked if I was sure, smiled great big, and defended my decision against every single soul that came into my path and grappled with my decision.  Apparently, the Judge was going to name Bogie as Reserve Grand Champion and he wasn't too happy, either. 

But, Dad stood by me.  He gave me the freedom to make the decision and he never doubted my decision after it was made.

The State Fair came and went and Bogie didn't do as well as I had hoped.  As I said, he peaked early.  His time to shine was the AR/OK State Fair, but I couldn't wrap my around that as a 12 year old. 

To this day, Dad has never questioned my decision.  He was a smart one, I think. He wanted me to transition from obedience to taking responsibility.  He wanted me to learn to make a decision and then stand by it no matter the outcome.  He was instilling courage into me that day 22 years ago.

I am reading a book called "On Becoming Preteen Wise" by Gary Ezzo and I think my Dad just may have cowritten this book.  It talks about the importance of parents making the transition from one of Authority to one of Influence.  Somewhere between the ages of 8-12, a child must start to see you as the encouraging coach.

We want our children to start to do the right thing not out of obedience, but out of responsibility.  We want to usher our kids into owning the principle behind the right thing to do.  Obedience is a required conformity but responsibility is a voluntary conformity.  We want our kids to choose the right thing on their own so that they will be better equipped for this thing called life.  If we are constantly telling our kids what to do, then it robs them of making their own decisions.  It robs them of growing up.  Once a child makes his own decision, he is able to go back and evaluate whether it was the wisest thing or not.

I am thankful Dad gave me that chance.


Bugs and Sunshine said...

please post of pic of you in hot pink wranglers

Anonymous said...

Back in the day Hot Pink Wranglers was something. I haven't been on blogs in a while and really enjoyed your story. I showed cows when I was young and can totally relate. I pray that my girls grow and become prepared for "life". Thanks for sharing.