I'm not even sure where to begin with this post. I think we're all still recovering from last week's hot, exhausting but oh so fun week at the fair. There are still sheep blankets and halters on my mudroom, coolers in the corner of my kitchen, extension cords in my dining room.
From Tuesday on, it felt like we touched down at home long enough to change clothes, shower, collapse on the sofa for twenty minutes and then get back in the car and do it all over again.
But of course, the big highlight was our inaugural year of showing lambs.
I grew up in 4-H. Showing my sister's lambs before I was even "legal" 4-H age all the way until I became too old when I was 18. So going through this now, with my own children has been a pretty special experience.
On Friday, Emma stepped into the showring for the first time, in a novice Showmanship class. If it was ballet or tap, I think I might be labelled as one of those "dance moms". Sitting there on the bleachers watching her show it took every once of self-control for me to not blab frenzied, whispered advice from the sidelines. I will admit to giving her a few exaggerated reminders in sign-language form to keep her eyes on the judge when her sweet wandering eyes were paying more attention to what was going on outside the ring, than in.
But even without my frenzied coaching from the bleachers, my sweet Emma won her showmanship class. She was a pro out there. Cool and calm. Smiling. And working hard. I was proud. (And so was she.)
The hardest part of the fair, comes at the end. To clarify, the lambs Emma took to the fair, were not the girls from Sarah. These were two lambs that we got in May, raised specifically to be part of the 4-H Market Lamb project.
I tread lightly here as I tell the rest of this story. The end of the fair for a market lamb means just that, it is time for market. Saturday night, the animals are auctioned and sold. And they don't come home.
Emma and I had talked about this long before we made the decision to get the lambs. We talked about whether or not she could handle it. I explained to her that she was giving the lambs a wonderful home–with love, attention, care, green grass, fresh hay. A much better alternative to some generic feed lot type of existence. In the end, she decided she wanted to do it.
I admit, there were tears early on. But as summer progressed she seemed to settle in. Then the girls arrived and they soothed the concern even more. She'd always have May and Penny.
I was suprised Saturday night, as I sat in the front row of the auction how emotional the whole thing would be for me. I'm sure it was the long week of exhaustion as much as anything else. But I found myself fighting back tears for several moments. The sounds of the auctioneer. The 4-Hers walking their animals through the ring. Another mother taking pictures of her son, with his grand champion animal, getting teary-eyed behind her camera lens.
I'm sure for many people, from the outside, it seems like something too hard to handle. But I can tell you that these kids work hard and take good care of their animals. They know them. They've cared for them. If anything, it's more respectful and respectable. And the people there, the buyers, are there more for the kids and the community and the small farms than they are for the animals. Better prices can certainly be found other places. There's much more behind this sale.
I stood outside the showring Saturday night with Emma, waiting with her for her turn to go in. Everything seemed okay, until I suddenly felt the thump of her head into my chest. And then the tears began to flow. She didn't want to do this. Lily had been so good. She had won the blue ribbon for her. She didn't want to sell her. It wasn't fair.
Of course, being the strong, calm and collected mother that I am (not really) the tears began for me, too. I remembered all of this. I had done and felt and experienced all of this as well. We talked through it again and despite wanting to snatch up that lamb and take it home with me, I sent her into the ring. Through tears she put on her smile.
When she walked out, the lamb was sold. To our local Senator, active in our fair, our community and for our county's farmers. He was working at the auction and had been serving as a superintendent of the fair. He pulled Emma aside and told her he had a field of nine lambs, and one more would make it ten. He was taking Lily home to his farm.
I'm convinced it was a little gift from God to Emma. A sweet blessing.
I really can't imagine a better way for her first year to go. Her "what if I don't want to do this next year" has changed to "when we do this next year….". I'm not sure what form it will take–breeding sheep, market lambs, but we'll definitely be hanging our sign in the sheep barn again.
As always, thanks for sharing in these stories with me, friends.
(P.S. Thank you to my cousin Katie, for being chief photographer during the show, so I could, you know, sit on the sidelines and coach.)