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Life at the County Fair: There Will Always Be Tears

Life at the County Fair: There Will Always Be Tears
The county fair has a way of bringing out 4-H exhibitors' and parents' emotions

At a county fair, there will be tears.

They may be from joy, sadness, sheer exhaustion or a combination. They might belong to my kids or they might belong to me, but they're there.

I do believe at some point every year over the last 10 I have cried at least once. I have been known to cry happy tears when I watch my kids get first in their class with a calf they watched be born.

I cried sad tears the first year watching my oldest child's heart break as she sold Clancy, her first steer – and I've cried at every auction since. I cried exhausted tears the year it was over 100 degrees and I had to hold the tail of a calf down to keep it from "losing any weight" before it crossed the scales.

Livestock Showman: It takes a strong and smart person to care and show livestock but know that ultimately, livestock is meant for breeding and harvesting.

Related: County Fair Countdown for an Indiana Farm Family

The Friday night auction brings tears. It doesn't matter how much my kids hated the calf they sold either. Once you spend that much time with a calf through the year and then a solid week together, it's hard to let go.

One year our oldest, Casey, had a calf that was a pain. They went round and round every time they worked together. You could hear her tell that steer, "I can't wait to walk you into the sale ring!"

Sale night arrived that year and it was no time at all until tears were flowing. I kept saying "I thought you hated him" between sobs of my own.

A few years ago our oldest got extremely dehydrated and had to be sent home with her grandparents right before the auction. Her little sister, Emi Lou, was put in charge of taking both calves through the auction.

Emi Lou cried and cried and clung to the neck of her steer and cried some more until they put her steer on the trailer. But as she walked out of the ring with Casey's steer, she easily handed over the halter. As the steer stepped on the trailer, she slapped it on the butt and said, "See you on the other side of the meat counter!"

Related: 4-H: 10 Years, 28 Calves and a Lifetime of Memories

But there is something about boys and men that is different and altogether practical. The first year as Casey sold her calf and sobbed, my husband fought back his own tears – they weren't for the calf, but tears at watching his child's heart break.

Our son, Cole, is 11 going on 68. He's caring, but practical. He has two steers this year and as the discussion on being out of beef in the freezer was happening he offered up one of his.

"Well Dad, I think we ought to put Hobbes in the freezer, he appears meatier and should be some good eatin'," he said.

And tears welled up in my eyes: a distinct combination of sadness, joy and sheer exhaustion.

Follow along with Jennifer this week as she chronicles her time at the county fair:
Life At the County Fair: When Did A Blue Ribbon Stop Meriting Praise?
Life at the County Fair: Jeans, Sweat and Restrooms without Air Conditioning
Life at the County Fair: Manure, Cow Hair an Uncomfortable Combination
Life at the County Fair: 6 Musings About Fair Week

The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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