New baa-tch of showmen
By Renee Carey
Published in News on October 3, 2006 1:48 PM
Rosewood High School FFA secretary Kathryn Rikard wasn't sure what to think when her adviser first suggested taking lambs to the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair -- especially since it was August and the fair started in only a couple of months.
But Monday night, proudly showing the ribbon she earned for finishing third in her weight class in the market lamb competition, all the hard work seemed worth it.
The hardest part, the Rosewood senior said, was teaching her lamb -- Kanga -- who's boss.
From her wavy wool, to her tendency to jump at exactly the wrong moment, Kathryn said Kanga is no ordinary lamb.
"She still thinks she's the boss, but I can handle her now," she said.
For most of the training, the opposite was true, Kathryn said with a smile.
"She thinks she is a kangaroo, and she did not want to listen," she said.
Now, after months of practice -- at least twice a week -- Kathryn and Kanga have a prize they earned together -- third place in the smallest lamb weight class.
But learning how to manage that 96-pound bundle of energy wasn't like the fairy tales where fluffy little white lambs follow their shepherds around the hills.
This was a bit of the battle, Rosewood's newest team said.
"I had seen people show lambs before." Kathryn said. "When I first heard the idea, I thought, 'Well, 4-year-olds can do this, so why not?'"
She found out that it was a little harder than it looked. And she had a bit of livestock experience. Kathryn showed hogs at the fair a couple of years ago.
"That was easy compared to this," she said.
Rosewood adviser Allison McCabe knew getting her team ready to show wasn't going to be an overnight project.
She knew she could borrow some lambs from her fiance, Brent Jennings, who also serves as the North Carolina 4-H livestock technician and presided as judge over last year's show.
He had been showing lambs since he was 5 years old.
Thank goodness, Miss McCabe added.
"I am from the beach," she said.
So, with an experienced adviser on hand, and a group of teenagers, apprehensive but eager to try, Rosewood put together a lamb-showing team.
"They have been working with these lambs since early August, three or four times a week," Miss McCabe said. "They were skeptical at first, but they decided to try."
Initially eight signed up. By the end of the summer, word of the lamb project had spread around the school and there was a waiting list.
Since the lambs were being boarded in Grantham, that meant traveling each day to train, feed and coax the lambs into show condition.
"None of them had ever shown sheep before," Miss McCabe said.
And so everything was new, even shearing the wool and trimming the lambs' hooves.
"They really worked hard," she said.
And there were other demands, too.
"They play volleyball and tennis; they like to go hunting and fishing; and they all have jobs," their proud adviser said. "They are busy."
But the group stayed committed.
Seeing her crew enter the senior showmanship ring was a thrill and an accomplishment, said Miss McCabe, who teaches agriculture at Rosewood, in addition to her duties as FFA adviser.
How they placed just didn't matter. They had made it around the ring.
"We were so excited," she said. "A lot of people told me that it is not uncommon for them just to let go and lose control of the lambs. I was proud. They all held on and they got them to brace just like they were supposed to."
Junior Chris Pierce knows just how close you can come to losing control -- even if your lamb is one of the smaller ones.
His charge, Ally Jo -- named after his adviser, tried to jump away from him three times during his first time around the ring.
He had to be talked into the lamb gig -- by FFA sentinel, Ashley Pederson.
Now, he said, he is glad he took his turn in the ring.
"I really learned a lot," he said.
And Miss McCabe is not finished yet, either.
She and her group are ready to take on hogs next year.
"It will be easy," she said.
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