When you don’t quite know what to say. And also a heifer

It’s likely we’ve all had those moments. You know, the times where there’s something that needs to be said, but we just can’t quite figure out what it is, or how to form the words.

We sit, somewhat frozen, unsure of how to pluck the thoughts from our minds. A thought, a feeling, that wants to be expressed, yet moves around enough that it can’t be grasped, or turned into something that someone else can understand.

That’s sort of how I feel tonight.

I’ve had a busy week. A busy two weeks. A busy month.

There’s a lot in my head, yet, it’s all sort of bouncing around so violently I can’t grab on to the one thing to say – despite a self-imposed obligation to write something every week to this blog by midnight each Saturday.

I don’t know whether to say something about what I learned about Friendship meals, which serves roughly 270 homebound elderly people in Hutchinson everyday.

Or to talk about my thoughts about the role of residents to engage their government beyond voting.

Or how I think we need to start thinking differently about economic development, and how most of our community will be earning a living 40-50 years from now.

Or how destructive, stupid and unnecessarily punitive the president’s DACA decision is to good people.

Or the guy who emailed this week asking to talk about his mom’s cancer treatment and what’s happened with her health care.

Or the state employee who was told she’d get a raise if she voluntarily gave up the rights that protect her from retribution if she disagrees with management.

Or the SEIU folks I listened to today, who are working to ensure the rights of their friends, and who think about ways to get more people working in better jobs.

Or the development opportunities along K-96, and the projects that are already taking place.

Or interesting research that is happening in the world of childhood development.

Or hurricanes and wildfires all over the place.

Or how I had forgotten how much fun it is to drive a stick shift.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Maybe it’s all too new information, or brought to the surface too recently, and hasn’t had a chance to settle so the pieces can be plucked apart. It’s all there, just not in any usable form.

But I can shift gears a bit, and do this.

Today, I did something I had never done before: I showed a heifer at the Kansas State Fair. And while it might seem like that’s little more than just walking in a corral with an animal it’s a lot more than that. Luckily, I had two 4-H pros to help me – Gracie and RJ. Theses two teenaged girls walked me through the process, showed me what to do, told me what to expect, and helped me feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

There are two critical elements to showing a heifer. One is the heifer. The other is the show stick, which has many purposes. It moves a foot when it’s out of line. If “loins” the heifer when you push the hook down on its back. This pulls the front shoulders and the hips up, which better shows the animals bone and muscle structure to the judge. And it is used to scratch the heifer’s belly, which helps keep it calm. When the show stick isn’t in use, it must be held perfectly vertical.

I also learned that you must lock eyes with the judge at all times. I didn’t do this well, but Gracie and RJ did a good job of getting on to me when I started to let my eyes wander around the arena.

“Keep looking at the judge,” they’d say.

But I did some things right, too. The girls said my spacing was good, meaning the amount of distance I left between me and the animal. This is needed so the judge can look through the space without much effort. And I felt that I did a pretty good job of keeping my show stick in place. And my heifer, named Sasha, was calm and well behaved. Gracie told me she would sense if I was nervous, and she’d get nervous. So I didn’t get nervous, and we got along just fine.

I also learned that it’s a lot more work than it seems. Standing straight, holding a halter tightly in one hand, trying to remember which way to stand and the order of operations, wasn’t so easy. Gracie and RJ both said it’s even harder when you’re out on the show floor for an hour and half. I can believe that. My shoulders had already tightened in the short time I was there.

Towards the end, I thought I had pulled it all together pretty well.

“I think we killed it,” I told the girls. “I really think we’re going to win this thing.”

And for a moment, it looked that way. I saw the judge grab the trophy. He walked around for a bit, and it looked like he was headed our way. I loosened my grip a bit, thinking I’d need one hand free to grab my prize.

Then he turned, patted another heifer on the back and handed the trophy to someone else.

Sadly, I left the arena with nothing to show for my efforts.

But that’s not entirely true. I had a fun experience. And I learned quite a bit, and I got to spend some time with some people who were really kind and helpful and generous with advice and information.

I asked Gracie and RJ if this was really fun for them, if it was really something they wanted to do or if it was something they had been roped in to.

They said it was fun, and the smiles on their faces made me think they (maybe) weren’t lying. And I hope that’s the case, because I had a good deal of fun, too.



2 thoughts on “When you don’t quite know what to say. And also a heifer

  1. Wow…first–good job with your first heifer showing. It’s not easy and there is a lot to raising and showing those animals that can stand one in good stead later in life.

    Second–you have a lot of input and deep stuff to ponder that is of significance now and far into the future. Oof Dah, as a good Swede (which I’m not, but I love the expression) would say.

    Finally–dying to know about the stick shift and if that had anything to do with Sasha. Regardless, hang onto the joy of driving the stick shift. It will ground you when the spinning of all the other thoughts start to throw you out of kilter.

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