Randy got reacquainted with a couple of old friends last week. Aubrey and Buddy came to the Stafford County Fair.
Buddy started life on The County Line in February. He was a twin, and the mom claimed his sibling and not him.
How could you not choose that cute little face, right?
But that is sometimes life on the farm. So Randy bottle fed him during his first few weeks of life.
Then Buddy found a new friend, a 4-Her named Aubrey. Unlike his mother, Aubrey loved him and cared for him and obviously fed him.
He had grown quite a bit since we'd said goodbye in late February.
(Note the difference in Buddy's height compared to Aubrey last February when she came to take him home. Then check him out in the photo at the top of the post taken last week.)
Aubrey and Buddy were in the bucket calf show at the 2010 Stafford County Fair.
Both our kids loved the bucket calf project. And they both learned a lot of life lessons from their succession of bucket calves. They learned that their calves had to be fed and watered every day, whether it was snowing outside or was 100 degrees in the shade. They learned that you had to work with a calf to make him lead. You had to do it even if your favorite TV show was on.
The appropriately-named Runaway taught Jill that Dad didn't REALLY mean for you to hold onto the lead rope NO MATTER WHAT!
Brent's bucket calf crop was a line-up of Wildcat football-inspired names like Michael (Bishop) and Willie (Wildcat) and (Jeff) Kelly (because it was a girl).
The bucket calf project also led our kids to the market beef project, which taught another bevy of life lessons.
Brent learned to say goodbye to old friends in this project. After the first year or two, our kids also brought their bucket calves back to the fair the next year as a market steer. Market steers and their 4-Hers can go through the livestock premium auction.
But then the reality hits. This friend who you've loved and cared for during the past couple of years is not going to be out in the corral any longer. It's another life lesson when the trailer comes to haul your friend away.
Jill never seemed to have the emotional attachment to her bucket calves. She was already adding up the auction proceeds and putting them in her college account.
But it took Brent a few years to be able to see the upside of this painful goodbye.
So we have a soft spot in our hearts for the bucket calf project, one of the reasons Randy and I sponsor the bucket calf showmanship trophy at the fair.
Who needs a carnival when you can watch a bucket calf show? At our fair, the show is more about what the 4-Her knows than the quality of the calf or how the calf is "fitted," or prepared, for the show.
At the Pratt County Fair, the judge has a microphone, and the audience can hear the 4-Hers' responses to questions about how much the calf was fed, what it was fed, what the grain mix was, what kind of shots were given and so on and so forth.
At our fair, it's just between the judge and the 4-Her. The audience isn't privy to the revealing answers.
This year's judge told the parents: "I learned more about your families than you might think."
The judge seemed to get a chuckle out of something Aubrey was telling him.
This little guy was too young for 4-H. But the cowboy-booted, pint-sized cowboy entered his friend in the open class division. He was just as confident as the "big" kids about leading the calf into the ring.
The bucket calf show is not without drama. This calf decided she had been standing long enough. The rest of us could relate. We all wanted to lay down and take a breather during the heat and humidity of the fair.
But, then again, fighting the heat and humidity are worth it to see the 4-Hers learn, excel and come a step closer to becoming a responsible adult ... one bucket calf at a time.