The calendar, and the quality of the air we breathe, insist it's state fair season. The competition is great to watch, no matter what it is. You know, like trying to knock down a pile of cinder blocks with a ping pong ball at 50 feet.
But there is also love and devotion and great pride and tremendous work on display there. With the kids and their prize animals.
Over the years I've interviewed a ton of these kids for whichever newspaper I was working for, and it's never ceased to amaze me. You give a kid a calf, or help him or her work to earn one, and then the work begins. There's the brushing and polishing, and feeding scientifically to bring out the best in the animal's conformation. And a kid must halter break the calf, which isn't easy at all, so that 700 pounds of beef follows you around on a leash.
And the kid gives hugs and snuggles from the growing calf, and gets them back in spades. That's the part I don't understand. You see, if the calf and the kid have worked together well enough over the past season, the calf will bring big bucks to the owner at the big sale. Restaurant chains pay premium dollars to say their Flamo Burgers are made from prize-winning cattle.
So the kid and the calf are separated for good, one going on to college more affordably now, and the other to the Flamo Burger factory.
And there are tears, of course, and deep questions to be asked, but the bottom line is that a beef in great condition can pay for a lot of tuition.