A cacophony of sounds drowned out the steady drizzle of melted ice splattering against iron-rich mud outside the Loy Park livestock barn Tuesday morning — the high whine of electric shears, the bleating of obstinate goats, the chatter of kids questioning, parents answering, high schoolers flirting. The sights inside the barn were familiar yet initially jarring for a city slicker — sumo-sized pigs waddling through chutes; the empty eyes of a heifer staring back at you.
But it was the smell — oh, that smell — that was the most saturating indication that the Texoma Livestock Show was underway. The warm aroma of cedar chips was made cool by the musk of unbathed animals with no shame; a smell equal parts welcoming and unwelcome.
For some, it will be the smell of victory when their animal is crowned superior in showings and sold for a king’s ransom at the end of the week-long event. But for the rest of the competitors, the smells of the stock show will preface other, better smells some months down the road: sizzling bacon, grilled sirloins, and basted lamb chops. It will be the delicious pay-back for months spent hauling slop, grooming wool, and performing welfare checks on dimwitted cows. It’s not a bad consolation prize; not unless you’re Professor Pigg, that is.
“That’s spelled P-I-G-G,” specified Whitesboro freshman Shane Gilliam Tuesday, a first year FFA member. “I thought of it one random day since pigs are the smartest farm animals. My pig got third place at the local show, but if he doesn’t make the sale, we’re going to take him home with us, and we’re going to have him butchered. It will be sad, but my dad butchers cows all the time.”
Not every participant at the stock show was as well-equipped to handle the inevitable death of their project animal. Bells student Chaelie Trojacek, a second-year FFAer who brought a pair of lambs to the show this year, said her trip to the stock show last year was a learning experience in more ways than one.
“My sheep last year was all buddy-buddied with me; it was like my baby and I cried when I had to…,” Trojacek trailed off, preferring not to relive the details of their parting. “But I got a lot of money from it, so that was good. But this year I didn’t name my sheep. I don’t want to get attached.”
Across the barn near the Denison FFA both, an onlooker would surmise that DHS sophomore and stock show newcomer Kathryn Blevins and her goat Paul were too far gone for any planned detachment. As Blevins sat waiting for the shearing table, she cuddled Paul’s head in her lap, both girl and goat closed their eyes.
“My favorite part has just been getting close to the animals,” said Blevins. “I brush him, I walk him every now and then, and then I feed him everyday. I think I’ve learned responsibility and putting things before me.”
The lesson of responsibility was an oft-repeated refrain among the adults at the stock show Tuesday, the event’s first day after Monday’s check-ins were cancelled due to the weather. Howe Ag Teacher Josh Vincent said increased responsibility was a major take-away from his high school career, and one that he now tries to pass-on as an instructor.
“I showed all through high school and really liked it,” said Vincent. “It teaches them responsibility, I’d say. They’re actually having to take care of something. It’s not just a sport, it’s something daily that they have to do. A few of the kids have trouble cutting the cord at the end, but the moms seem to be the worst sometimes.”
Vincent wouldn’t hear any argument from Denison matriarch Sherrie Tew, who has helped raise her daughter Naylen’s lamb over the last few months. Tew said the growth she’s seen in her daughter is almost enough to offset what’s coming once the Texoma Livestock Show draws to a close on Thursday — almost.
“It’s been an experience. She’s gotten a totally different perspective as far as, like, we have dogs at home, but this is just more responsibility,” said the elder Tew, a first year parent in the FFA livestock program. “We’ll see how she does as far as letting him go; I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll probably cry more than she will, but we’ve really enjoyed it.”