From time to time, I am asked to judge goats at the county fairs. I usually enjoy this. I get to see the 4-H & FFA members and their projects in more depth than at the State Fair where they are limited to exhibit just a few animals. I like to work with them to sharpen their showmanship skills.

This experience was not to be one of those times.

The day started at 5. I am not a morning person. My brain does not like to get up at 6:30 so I can get morning chores done at 7. But, 5 it was so I could get chores done in time to get everything together to be at the fairgrounds by 9.

We overestimated the time it would take to travel, so we were 30 minutes early, to be 30 minutes early. This is not usually a problem at most fairs since the exhibitors get there early to muck stalls and get morning chores done before the fairgoers arrive at about 10. The gates were open so we could get in.

Well, at least I could. They sent me a complementary gate pass. One. I did ask when I was on the phone with the person doing the contract sending if it would be possible to buy a ticket to get my husband & daughter in with me. Since Little Missy is under 5 she is free, and yes, you can buy a ticket for your husband to get in at the gate. They forgot to mention that I could not buy tickets until 9 or so. My show started at 9. The girl at the gate was stuck, she wasn’t supposed to let anyone in without a ticket, and she couldn’t sell us one either, as she had no access to the tickets or the register.

I schlepped the 4 year-old and our stuff to the main office and went a round with them about this. Apparently they could not/would not sell me a ticket from the office. One of the ticket ladies had arrived early, and would head down to the gate and sell us one there. After trekking back across the fairgrounds, we got to the booth and something was wrong with the register. The poor woman finally just caved in, took our money, gave us a ticket, and said she’d ring it in when they figured out the problem. We hit the gate and they wouldn’t let my daughter back in. Remember, she had just come out of the fairgrounds with me, is under 5, and FREE! We had to go back to the booth and get a complementary gate pass for her. I am fuming by now.

I stalked across the fairgrounds to the arena, where we set up our chairs and deposited our lunch cooler. We had a some time before the show started, so we cruise out to find the caffeinated nectar of life for my husband. Along the way we see the Master Gardener display garden. It is quite lovely and a quick side trip through this space would be a great way to help me regain my composure before I go critique children on their showmanship skills. As we are admiring the impressive strawberry bed and commenting on the timed soaker hose method of watering, a woman shouts across the space from the recycling/composting area that they aren’t open until 10.

Really. Are you serious?!?! The flowers looked open to me. They weren’t being shy, I could even see stamens and pistils. Nope. No veggies trying to get their leaves teased up just right before the hoards of people came to see them. (I wonder if they use White Rain as a hair spray?) If you don’t want folks in your garden before 10, perhaps you should put up a gate or even a sign. As my daughter says: “We were just looking with our eyes,” and admiring their handy work.

We found a vendor happily willing to sell us coffee before 10 AM and made our way back to the arena. I pulled up a sit down and made some notes to include in a letter to the fair about some things that could use improvement. The family went off to explore the huge tractor display. My child would rather have a JohnDeer or a Kubota than Barbie & Ken. I love her.

9AM came and went. There was no show table, no superintendent, no kids, no animals. I would have been worried that we were in the wrong location, but the superintendent pointed this arena out to me as our show site. About 9:30 her daughter came and dropped off some judging contest score cards and a water bottle into one of our chairs and said she would be back with the rest of the stuff.

I am starting to get a real bad feeling about this.

By about 10 there is a table and the tractor has brought in some shavings for a more friendly show surface than the compacted dirt. I am approached by the same daughter and told I need to go to the pens and pick out the animals I want to use for my classes.

WHAT?!?! I am the judge. You bring me the kids in their whites, towing their selected showmanship animal behind them. I put them through their paces and then choose the best. Then you bring out the goats by breed and I arrange them in the order from most correct to least, according to the score card for the respective breed. I do not make up my own classes.

Unless you are constructing a judging contest. Then you create classes for the kids to place. That is NOT my job. I was NOT hired to do that.

I ran their judging contest.

The superintendents have the list of the kids with their ages and the animals they have brought to show. At the conclusion of the contest I waited for the superintendent to call the showmanship classes in. Apparently there was some confusion. They had three kids. One intermediate, one junior, and a primary. The primary isn’t really allowed to show, but at the county level they are often given a class of their own. They were having trouble trying to figure who would show first. I made it simple. They all showed together. Trust me, there wasn’t a lot of difference between them.

A ring steward has a list of the classes and the entrants. They call the classes, check to see that everybody is there, and that things are moving along well. The clerk has a list of the classes and the entrants, and records who places where with what color ribbon. I got to be my own ring steward, but thankfully not the clerk.

My patience was sorely tried on several occasions, and I nearly lost it in the pygmy goat showmanship class. I had two kids that had NO desire to be in the ring. I am still not sure why they were showing goats. I have never been so disappointed. There were some bright spots with some of the kids, but overall there was a lack of information and no training at all. I should have given a clinic instead of evaluating the kids on things they did not know. I tried to instruct them as we went through the maneuvers, but that is not the best way for them to learn.

A high point was that the animals were of decent quality and they had been properly fed and cared for.

By the end of the show I hope that some of the kids had a grasp on what they need to do. I also hope that the superintendent had a better idea of how to run a show.

I have been milking for our neighbor (while she has been working an off-the-farm job. (More on that later.) I was tentatively scheduled to milk, but the show wiped me out. On the way home, I saw that her car was in the drive and hoped that she had gotten home early and could do her evening milk chores. She had an appointment at the Vet for her big Pyranees livestock guardian dog that morning. He had a sore paw and we though he might have gotten something jammed up in it and gotten an infection. I called, she was in tears. She had to put Atty down. He did not have something stuck in his paw. He had bone cancer. The only thing to do to try to stop it was amputate his leg. At his size, a dog can not get around on three legs. There aren’t too many options at that point.

My step-son & I went over and did chores. Nobody should be alone on a day like that.

I don’t think that the day could get over soon enough. It wasn’t even Friday the 13th.

ARRRRGH. I guess we need to have days like that to make us appreciate the other days even more.

I certainly hope that my next show goes better.