I have to admit, after the success our lambs had last year at the New Mexico State Fair, I was a little worried that this year would be a major let down. But because I have done this every year for the last 18, I loaded up my bags and headed to Albuquerque last weekend for the fair. And it couldn't have been better.
I spent four days at the fair in a barn full of dust and animals and some of the best people in the world. I ate a lot of burritos and had green chile on just about every meal. I was given free stocks in Mr. Graham's latest scheme. And I got more hugs in those four days than I'll probably get for the rest of the year.
And the shows? Well, they went awesome. Like, real awesome.
First up was the New Mexico Bred Steer Show. We just had one calf showing, but he won his class! Yay! We're not just sheep people, turns out!
And then it was the sheep show day. Which also happened to be my dad's birthday. He said for his birthday he really wanted a breed champion and another class winner. Well, he got his wish. And then some. Three class winners, two Reserve Breed Champions, and Champion Finewool Cross.
Dad spent his birthday high fiving moms and kids, answering "Who raised that lamb?" proudly with "We did!" He teared up when encouraging a little boy from our hometown who got beat, but did the best job showing that he'd ever done. And he spent the entire next day working on getting a website up and running to share the photos and the news.
But my favorite moment of the week happened after the show. My dad--the one who you can hardly get to look at a camera and pay attention--took three photos in a row in the sheep show version of the winner's circle and smiled bigger than I might have ever seen. When the first picture was over and the photographer (not realizing we had won three breed or reserve breed champions) tried to shuffle my dad out of the photo backdrop, my dad told him, "I've waited a long time for this and I'm going to be here a while." And he was, for three photos in a row.
|Champion Finewool Cross|
|Reserve Champion Finewool Cross|
|Reserve Champion Finewool|
You better believe that my dad deserved his time and three pictures in front of that banner. Because there was a lot of hard work that went into that. Generations of hard work, actually. My grandparents started it all over 60 years ago when they bought our farm and our first ewes. Then my grandma ignored everyone who told her to sell out when my grandpa died and left my grandma with two teenage boys and a farm to run. Instead, they worked harder. They sacrificed. And they kept on going. There were hours spent at the barn. Hot days of sorting ewes. Pulling lambs in freezing cold blizzards. Early mornings of getting up to cut hay and late nights fighting with the bailer that is always broken. Trips to Iowa to find a ram. Sleepless nights before our show lamb sale. Dead rams and prolapsed ewes and lambs that just didn't turn out. My dad waited a long time for Tuesday and I am here to tell you, there's no one who deserved it more than him.