Just whom are you calling an old-timer?
By Jennifer M. Latzke
Of course it had to be a black steer with an attitude. What else would be appropriate for me to haul through the show ring during the first ever Old-Timer’s Showmanship Contest at the fair back home?
The only other thing that would have capped off the experience would be if my dad were standing outside the gate with a rope and gloves at the ready for the inevitable rodeo.
This year, the Central Kansas Free Fair Beef Show offered adults the chance to return to their glory days with the Old-Timer’s contest. This brainchild of our beef superintendents was meant to raise money toward improvements to the fairgrounds.
The humor and good times were just an added bonus.
Now, no one knew what to expect this first year. As the announcer of the beef show, my duty was to just talk this thing up and get as many to sign up as possible. We wound up with two heats of 33 or so adults willing to set aside pride and dignity all in the name of helping the fair and the kids.
Maturity, it seems, is highly overrated. And competition, it appears, has no age limit.
For $5 you could put your name or someone else’s name on the list to show. For another $5 you could take your name off the list. And there was no limit to how many times you could be put on and taken off.
Other than that, anything went. We had our beef superintendents in costumes and wigs. Our fair board president supported “Tough Enough To Wear Pink Day” by dressing up in a bubblegum pink shirt, pink feather boa, sombrero and carrying a pink showstick and leading a heifer with a bow tie on her tail. We even had one county commissioner signed on, but he had to leave before the show could start.
I signed up and paid my $5 and borrowed a steer from one of the kids in my old 4-H club. I had to chuckle when she and her dad gave me the low-down on my partner.
“His name is J.R. He’s kind of ornery, and he kicks, and he doesn’t like the show stick on his feet. But hey, it’s nothing you aren’t used to, right?”
Evidently the Annual Latzke Rodeo and Show String Roundup hasn’t left the county’s collective consciousness after 17 years. Instead it made a multi-generational impression. Goody.
The best part of the whole shebang was how the kids got into it. Our judges were the five junior showmen who competed earlier in the day in showmanship. They went around and asked each Old-Timer questions just like they’d seen the show judge do all day long—but with a twist.
“How old are you—I mean, how old is your steer?”
“What was your nickname in college?”
“I can be bought with candy.”
Then, there were the older kids. Some served as ring men. Others stood outside the show ring prepping their parents before entering with their animals. In a twist of roles, the conversations were hilarious.
“OK, remember, he doesn’t like the corners, and don’t forget to use your comb.”
“Mom, tuck your shirt in!”
“Dad, don’t forget to watch the judge.”
J.R. the steer and I managed to make it through the show ring in one piece. It was really surreal to be an adult and standing there next to the other former 4-Hers I grew up with—just like old times.
And, just like old times, J.R. and I didn’t make the finals. But there’s always next year.
Judging by the response from the audience, I do believe there will be a next year. We wound up raising a little over $200 for the fair. But the memories were priceless.
However, I think we could change the name of the contest.
I, for one, have a long ways to go before I’m an “Old-Timer.”
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.