Not every weekend involves a walk on the beach, whenever possible I do seek the sand and sun, but Florida has much more to offer and explore. If you have ever heard of the term Florida Cracker, you may not be aware that it has a strong agricultural history and livestock has played an important role in it. So, a while back I had the opportunity to observe a Junior Cattleman’s Show. They had a variety of youth showing their prize cattle for ribbons and awards.
Having no personal experience with livestock, I was impressed with the way these young people handled the animals and I was especially amazed when I saw the Pee Wee Livestock Show. There were children who looked to range in age from 3-5 years old. One little girl in particular was approximately 3 years old, and she was dressed like a true cowgirl with the jeans, bling belt, dress shirt , hat and a show stick.
What amazed me was not this cute little girl pretending to be a cowgirl, what amazed me was she truly was a cowgirl in training. She was walking this animal and leading it with a show stick with great confidence and poise. Of course she had her father following closely to ensure both her and all other’s safety, but he too had confidence that this little girl was capable of leading and showing the calf. Keep in mind that when I say calf, these cattle were easily 300 plus pounds and capable of squashing any of the Pee Wee Showmen. But it was clear that these young cowboys and cowgirls have been entrenched in the rich life of agriculture and specifically management of livestock since birth.
What a legacy, these children are apprenticed into a critical part of our life and economic cycle, the management of a farm or cattle takes HARD WORK, planning, coordinating, communication, physical and mental mastery and flexibility due to the unpredictability of weather and the animals themselves. I cannot think of another industry here and now where children are born into a training ground for productivity , purpose and responsibility at such a young age. By the way, although it involves plenty of hard work, these folks have fun and work collaboratively as families and with fellow cattleman and friends. It was an honor and joy to witness this part of our culture that is still crucial and yet forgotten or taken for granted by many.
To punctuate this, a few weeks after observing the show, I had the opportunity to help separate young steer who were being sold for the next Florida State Fair Youth Steer Show. I mentioned that I have no experience in agriculture or livestock. My background has been primarily in sales, customer service and management. In other words I have spent most of my life in a suit and heels. So a few weeks back I found myself out in a pasture with several cattle pens and as the steer were released from the shoot after being weighed- in and tagged, they were driven by a young man in my direction. Someone would yell out a pen number and my job was to ensure that the steer was directed to the proper pen.
This was quite an experience, literally I would have steer ranging in size from 500 pounds to 900 pounds coming my way and all I had to do was open the correct gate to guide them to their place. Most of the steer were docile and the young man directing them did his best to guide them, but some of the steer were sensitive to the process and had an instinct to run away from the guided path. On occasion they came running straight towards me, with a look that can only be described as “A steer in the headlights”, funny I’m sure that on their receiving end, I was looking at them like “A deer in the headlights”. But this capable young man always ensured that the steer were managed.
This young man just graduated high school, he was raised by a single mom and in speaking with his AG teacher, he worked hard in the program to not only take responsibility for his animal, but whenever the teacher needed help if heading out of town, this was the young man they knew they could rely on to manage all of the animals in the facility. He also had an elderly grandparent who could no longer live independently and so he moved in with her to assist her when he wasn’t at school or work.
I watched this man work, he was quiet , yet confident and followed direction as needed by the teacher. He worked hard in the hot sun and muggy , buggy weather without any complaint. He is very sharp and wants to be an engineer, so he is joining the Navy, because he does not want to burden his mother with the expense of college and loans. His goal is to train in the service and work towards his goal while serving our country. As the single mother of 3 fine young men, I will tell you that I am impressed with this hard working unassuming young man. I believe he represents the hope of our Nation, and this heritage from agriculture and livestock has been fertile ground and foundation for his future.
Genesis 1:28 “God Blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over every living creature.'”
P.S. I may never put on a suit and heels again…..:)