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The Judging Team

I joined the livestock judging team at Purdue my Junior Year.
I made some lifelong friends from this adventure.
Sure, I showed pigs and cattle in 4-H and attended other shows, but I was never in FFA, nor did I go to Junior College to judge. Every single one of my teammates had done one or the other.
How hard could it be? I am very good at winging “reasons” on the fly.
Turns out, some people take this VERY SERIOUSLY. And I don’t mean to discount this (just making light!)
Especially, Coach Matthew Claeys. He still scares me. The man has a death stare and has only smiled once, maybe. I always did my best to make him laugh. Futile attempts.
My role on the team was cheerleader and class clown.
We drove in a van all over the nation and stayed in cheap hotels, only to practice all night and get up at the crack of dawn to attend these judging competitions in starched jeans, blingy belts and teased hair.
The Western Look is VERY important for credibility.
We competed against teams from Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas. THESE people know cattle. We sorta pretend here in Indiana.
“I rate these heifers, 4,2,1,3.” I still have nightmares about this. I never placed well; maybe once on a whim. I was part of an excellent team and have friends for life because of our experiences. I would be so proud to hear my team mates names be called up for placing.
Maria and Flash still call me “SJ.” They also called me “Atlas” because in the van I would always ask “where are we?” Claeys hated this.
The skills, discipline, and connections this experience gave me will live with me forever. I am so grateful I took this chance; knowing well I would be the underdog. The final speech at the Grand Drive is always so engaging. There is a greater cause behind this; teaching young people skills FOR LIFE.
Today I watched my nephews show their 4-H pigs at the Open Show at Hancock County.
The smell of fresh shavings and manure.
Nothing better.
The Judging Team