Flash forward. Years pass; styles change and the Simmental behemoths that could leap like a stag have been replaced by smaller sleeker black steers with noses that could sip from a teacup. The kids of the '90s had lovely Chianina steers to show, shiny, but as skittish as colts. They felt just fine to the judges, but hang em on a rail and they might, but probably wouldn't, grade choice.
After the steers were tied and haltered, the girls spent a week bringing feed and water to them before they attempted to lead them to the water tank and back again. If these milestones were accomplished without injury to either girl or beast, the steers were turned loose again, still haltered, to eat and drink freely, with the underlying assumption being the cattle were used to the girls and, once caught, we could catch ém again. Finally, the kids practiced with their show sticks, leading the calves around the feedlot, setting them up, and praying every single time that one of the steers would not take a notion to balk. By that time, Blake would leave home every morning and come home every night asking 'Did you brush your calves?' The curry combs, clogged with dust and hair, hung on the barbed wire as evidence of daily grooming.
All those years of showing did yield a couple of trophies, but we figured they were more like winning a door prize than evidence that we were calf jockeys.
The kids of the kids are raising animals now. Aaron's hogs will be bacon and chops and roasts in the freezer in a week or so. He will have money in his account to start the process all over again. Matt and Ann are already discussing how to make Aaron's project, not just good eating, but good looking as well. Aaron's grandparents (that's us!) are justly proud of how he has improved in the ring from last year and we know how attentive his folks are to his work ethic when it comes to doing chores!
Just a year or two ago, the US Department of Labor proposed some new regulations for children on farms that would have limited the kinds of work kids can do, even on their family's farms. The uproar was so great that the rules were withdrawn and kids like Aaron can still work and chore like our children did and boys and girls have for generations. The proposed rules landed on the agriculture industry like a bolt from the blue: stunningly arbitrary and ignorant of the inherent family nature of US agriculture. Even though this was a proposal from the Federal level, it is a perfect example of what Amendment 1 is trying to protect Missouri farmers from: a misguided even if well meaning impulse that would fundamentally harm Missouri agriculture.
Amendment 1 is not the result of paranoia. Farmers know that "they"are really out to get us; we need only marginally keep up with current affairs from coast to coast to understand that what we consider productive ways of growing grains, animals, fruits and vegetables are suspect.
We look for affirmation from our neighbors and fellow citizens that places like Atchison county will continue to grow kids from town and country who learn to do their chores every day, be responsible for another creature's well being, and finally, take those lessons to heart and pass them on to another generation. Look at the youngsters at any county fair; read the bloggers on social media; count the number of blue jackets at your local school.
Farmers not only grow our food; they grow our future.