Livestock handlers compete for Grand Champion honors
By Turner Walston
Published in News on April 20, 2006 1:49 PM
As the judge walked up and down the rank of boys, girls and goats, the tension mounted.
All of the 10 contestants had finished either first or second in their respective divisions and had been selected for the Grand Champion competition.
Ben Carpenter examined each goat carefully, looking for the one animal that stood above the rest. After several minutes of scrutiny that must have been agonizing to the young competitors, the judge took the microphone.
"There's one animal in this ring that I think epitomizes what the livestock industry should be working toward," he said. With that, he walked over to congratulate 8-year-old Rachel McCullen, who was showing her goat, Timmy.
Beaming, the Carver Elementary third-grader could not contain her excitement.
"I feel so happy I'm screaming," Rachel said after handing Timmy off to her father, Joey McCullen.
The action took place on the first night of the 58th annual Wayne County Junior Livestock Show and Sale. The event continues today and tonight.
Rachel said she had been working with her goat for about a month, preparing for the show, her first.
"I had to teach him how to do different things, had to give him a bath," she said.
Rachel said Timmy could be a bit temperamental, but the title of Grand Champion is awarded to the fittest goat, not the most polite.
"He (the judge) is looking for how healthy and how good the goat is," Rachel said.
Rachel said she did not know what to expect from her first show. Winning was not on her mind, she said.
"I was thinking I'd probably get last or something," she said.
Her mother, Lisa, had higher hopes.
"She's starting out with a bang," Mrs. McCullen said. "We have a black lab that's 9 months old, that's given her a lot of practice."
Rachel, who will turn 9 in September, said she is looking forward to showing again at the Wayne Regional Fair this fall.
"That'll be sort of like a little birthday present to myself," she said.
Jesse Grady, 11, won Grand Champion in the Feeder Calf Show with his 615-pound yearling, named Carl. A sixth-grader at Spring Creek High, Jesse also was excited about his first championship, in just his second year showing calves.
He said when the judge finishes examining the animals and takes the microphone, that's when the mind games start.
"You're thinking, 'Did I do good?' 'Did I do bad?' 'What did I do?' You don't know exactly what's going on. You're nervous," Jesse said.
When he learned he had won Grand Champion it was hard to take in at first, he said.
"You won Grand Champion," Jesse said. "It hits you. It's so exciting."
Although he was surprised to win, Jesse said he was confident his animal had the qualities the judge was looking for.
"He was looking for a well-built body, a straight back, a lot of meat. A well-balanced animal," Jesse said.
Jesse's 9-year-old sister Virginia also competes. He said having a partner to work with animals together benefits both handlers.
The animals tend to behave easier when they are together, he said. And one handler can give tips to the other.
"You can help them, and they can help you," he said.
At the end of tonight's show, the goats, cattle and hogs shown will be sold at auction. Jesse said the most difficult part can be saying goodbye to the animal he has fed, raised and cared for.
"You'll be out there two hours every single day for weeks,"he said. "It's going to be kind of hard to sell him."
Although Jesse and Carl will part ways, Jesse said he will always be proud of having earned the title of Grand Champion.
"It's something that you can hang up there for the rest of your life," he said.
The market hog show was scheduled to begin this morning at 9, with a livestock judging contest to follow at 1 p.m. A supper begins at 6 tonight, followed by the awards presentation and sale.
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