With the Socorro County Fair finishing up last week, I can’t help but reminisce about my time spent in 4-H, attending the local county fair and the lessons I learned back in Iowa. Growing up around chickens, ducks, geese, hogs, cattle and more, it was a natural progression when you turned the ripe old age of 9 you entered your first livestock show competition.
When I got to show my first steer, I picked him out of my dad’s feedlot. That’s how you did it back then. We didn’t go visit a breeder nor shell out big bucks to buy a 4-H show steer. I wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to a free steer. I studied the cattle yard for a few days before I selected my first steer. He was a angus crossbred and I named him King Arthur … Artie for short. I don’t remember how tall I was, but I do know I didn’t register more than 100 pounds. An animal, like Artie, would eventually tip the scales at more than 1,000 pounds. He certainly was intimidating.
Of course, you never wanted to show your weakness in front of your friends or your family. I always would challenge myself to do my best to handle my steer without showing the struggle, at times, to keep him in line. Artie would try to mess with me from time to time. All he needed to do was toss his head and off the ground I would go. I was told never to let go of your animal. It also helped that grownups were near to step in should something go array.
After months and months of working daily with Artie and taking him for walks around the farm, he was as tame and docile as our family pets. He would come running then I called for King Arthur’s court to meet. He would even let me lean against him when he was resting.
There’s nothing like the bond one has with your first 4-H animal. Endless hours spent together, feeding and watering your animal and practicing leading and setting up your steer and getting him used to a show stick. The experience was priceless!
Kudos to John Larson for covering most all the livestock events at this year’s fair. I made it to the hog show on Thursday night as well as the market lamb and cattle show on Friday. As I was walking into the fairgrounds Friday night, I happened to run into John Lee, local Magdalena veterinarian. He carefully reminded me that this probably wasn’t like any county fairs in Iowa or Minnesota where I have resided. While that’s probably true in terms of the number of livestock exhibits – but youth in Socorro County are just as knowledgeable and experienced as the 4-Hers back in Iowa or Minnesota.
Besides, fair time is a wonderful time of year – especially so in a small community such as ours. So to all the organizers and others behind the scenes at this year's Socorro County Fair, I offer you my congratulations on a job well done! To all of our readers … if you missed the county fair … make plans to attend next year. Come support local agriculture and the wonderful 4-H and FFA participants.
Finally, let’s talk fair food. Fair food here in New Mexico differs quite a bit from many of the states where I’ve resided. In Wisconsin it’s fried cheese curds or gigantic cream puffs. In Minnesota, it’s walleye sandwich or fresh milk from the dairy barn served up with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. In Iowa, it’s either a pork chop on a stick, fresh roasted sweet corn or my all-time favorite fair food … a Hot Beef Sundae, always served up by the local cattlemen’s organization.
What’s Hot Beef Sundae? Let me describe it: Start off with a base of mashed potatoes (3 scoops), scooped up with an ice scoop and placed in the bottom of a bowl. Then ladle on top of it, hot roast beef. Next, layer it another scoop of mashed potatoes, then add either corn then cheddar cheese … or both (consider this the sprinkles). Then top it off with a scoop of gravy, a dollop of sour cream and a cherry tomato. Delicious!