From strangers to friends and 800 pigs to one Rodeo Austin Grand Champion Barrow, half of my spring break was spent in Austin, Texas at the 2015 Rodeo Austin.
35 WT students applied to go on the trip, I was one of the 18 chosen to go.
When we left the WTAMU Agricultural Education Center at 8 am on the 19th, I only knew one other girl vaguely from Statistics supplemental instruction last semester. Nothing brings strangers together like an eight-hour van ride. On top of working side-by-side for three days, sharing meals and hotel rooms, and going to the Turnpike Troubadour concert together, I now know 17 other WT students very well.
The purpose of the trip was for WT students to work a livestock show, so when we’d return as an Ag teacher or parent of a showman, we’d understand what it takes to put on a show. We helped upload tack and set up the show ring Friday, then worked gates and such Saturday and Sunday during the actual barrow show.
The Agricultural Education majors noted actions the did and did not like of different FFA chapters and 4-H clubs; kids saying ‘thank you’ to college students helping them, yes; kids sitting in the truck or still at the motel while their Ag teacher sets up their hog pen, no; parents drinking alcohol at the stalls during a junior livestock show, no.
My takeaway, as I showed cattle mainly in Colorado, working such a large barrow show (though Rodeo Austin is the smallest Texas national show) in a different state was an eye opening experience. Organized chaos perfectly described the show; people and pigs were everywhere. It was like the west barn on the Hill at the National Western Stock Show, so cluttered with people, animals, and tack, you could hardly walk through. I also learned the notorious “Texas Show Mama” is a real thing. The first trailer in line to unload at 6 am had a mother who wanted all the help and attention, not caring about the 20 other trailers in line behind her. I do not recall if she said ‘thank you’ after we helped her unload either.
During the Grand Drive, the judge, Jason Hirschfeld from York, Nebraska, took few minutes to discuss the impact of negative social media, retelling a personal story he had of a teen being bullied on social media then committing suicide. He reinforce how social media should be filled with positive posts, so took a selfie with the showmen of the Drive and posted it on his personal Facebook account, This was not the normal Grand Drive ‘thanks for having me here, exceptional set of animals and kids’ speech, but so refreshing to have current trends mentioned in the rings, as they are so prominent outside of the ring.
The realization I completed a dream my 10-year-old self set did not happen until the Grand Drive. My first year showing at the National Western Stock Show, a group of college kids from Colorado State University helped process the prospect heifers. For whatever reason, I wanted to be that person working the gate or checking names of showman going in the ring. I wanted to be a part of a national show. 10 years later, I worked the gate and crossed names off the list; I work a national livestock show.
This is what college is about. I stepped out of my comfort zone, going on a five day trip with two professors and 17 other students I hardly knew, taking an opportunity I probably will never get again.