- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SWEETWATER, Texas (AP) - Hook ‘em when they’re young?

“Oh, yeah,” Scott Etheredge said. “It’s addicting and you can’t get out of it.”

The Abilene Reporter-News reports not to worry, however. Known side effects from this habit include self-reliance, diligence and family bonding.

The Nolan County Livestock Association recently held its annual Honorary, or Pee Wee, Showmanship contest at the Nolan County Coliseum. Between 50 and 75 young children participated.

Executive director Lacey Rains explained what it was all about.

“It’s open to the youth of Nolan County who are second grade and younger,” she said. “We do the honorary show to spark the interest.”

Kids usually don’t get to compete in the county show until they’re in the third grade. Pee-wee shows provide then an introduction to working with stock show animals.

Etheredge described his two 6-year-old daughters, Alex and Davis, as initially nervous around these animals. That’s true of many youngsters, especially younger.

“Anything bigger scares them. But it scares them a little bit, and then they do it and it feels good afterward,” he said. “One of them likes it one year and the other one doesn’t; then the next year that one doesn’t like it and the other one does.”

Etheredge grew up on stock shows and it’s important for him that his kids have the same experience. Getting his children involved in these shows facilitates that, as does helping their 17-year-old cousin, Brook Nervig, who competed in the Nolan County show days earlier.

“My niece can’t be here today,” Etheredge said. “So, they’re going to go through the sale for her, using her number.”

Like any showmanship contest, the emphasis is placed on how the competitor controls their animal, as well as paying attention to the judge. Assisted by older kids, the children got to show lambs, goats and pigs.

Each of them received a ribbon for participating, with the winner of each show also taking home a belt buckle from judge Jeff Minor of Snyder.

Admittedly, you can’t expect a lot from the really young kids, several of which were just over 2 years old. But Minor’s expectations weren’t terribly stringent, either.

“What I look for is a kid that understands what we’re doing out here, what they’re trying to learn,” he said. “The ones that know I am the judge and who are showing to me, and the ones who best present their animals to me, is what I really look for.”

But age isn’t an indicator of ability to him, either.

“I don’t judge them by age, I judge them by their ability,” Minor said. “By who knows what’s going on the best.”

“Not all of them want to show their goats, it looks like more kids want to show the pigs,” Rains said while parents were still registering their children. “They are able to show each species if they want to, but they don’t have to.”

Rains then laughed, leaning in as if she were about to whisper a secret.

“You know, some are still scared of them and I think they like to show the pigs because, well, they get their whips and they just walk behind them,” she said, laughing again. “They chase the pigs, basically.”

She made the point, however, that they couldn’t do any of this without the older children.

“You know, sometimes it’s hard to get them up here on Saturday mornings,” she said. “But they really enjoy working with the little kids and being the big helpers.”


Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com

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