THE 4-H FAT STEER VERSION OF THE WILD HORSE RACE

When I was a kid, the 4-H meeting was something to look forward to all month. The parents of the community all took turns hosting the monthly get together. After the meeting, there was always good food laid, and while the parents visited all of the kids went outside and found various ways to entertain ourselves.

When I was twelve years old, I was allowed to take a steer for my yearly project. My dad was a talented stockman and in the fall chose a real nice calf for my project. I immediately set about halter breaking and gentling him down. In the spring when our milk cow came fresh, my steer started nursing her along with her own calf. I was kind of concerned about it, but when I told my dad he said, “Let him do it, that’ll put a nice bloom on him.” And bloom him it did. Everything worked fine until the county fair at the end of the summer.

Wally and his 4-H steer

My dad had some pressing ranch business and was unable to attend the fair with me so he dropped me off at the fairgrounds with a sleeping bag and enough money for food until the fair was over. Things began to unravel around five o’clock that night. My big fat steer realized he wasn’t home anymore, and he missed his mother terribly… especially his evening, warm milk supper.

Homer became very disruptive that first night at the county fair. He bawled incessantly and constantly weaved back and forth in his tie stall. He kept my other 4-H friends and me who were in our sleeping bags outside of the steer barn awake all night.

The next afternoon was “show time.” I was seventh in line with  twenty-five other 4-H members holding their fat steers. I managed to hold on to my homesick steer until we entered the arena. The arena was a grass lot about a half acre in size. Then Homer took matters into his own hooves and stampeded right through the steers in front of him with me tobogganing behind him, belly down on the end of the lead shank. Within seconds, three of the six steers in front of me jerked away from their handlers. The situation continued to deteriorate until panicked parents heroically entered the melee and eventually gained control of the wild steer race.

Everyone managed to avoid injury except for the judge who high-centered on the fence while trying to get to safer ground. When the dust finally settled, a concerned parent had helped me slow my steer down but control still did not exist. I ended up being awarded the Reserve Champion ribbon. When the judge gave his reasons for the placings, he said that he thought my steer may have been the legitimate Grand Champion Steer but he never stood still long enough for him to tell for sure.

I took a different steer to the fair the following year…and I kept him away from the milk cow.

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