I knew when I took the job that there would be a chance I’d wind up in the crap – and so it was not long after arriving at the Wharton County Youth Fair that I stepped in it.

While that statement is true it is also a metaphor for my first try at being a stringer for a newspaper. I always knew that reporters were underrated, especially non-famous reporters – the local reporters and editors that do the grunt-work at small, local newspapers. But I think they undervalue themselves more than they know.

“Just attend the steer show, get pictures of the winners and talk to them, get names and personal info and report it back to us.” That was what I was told a stringer did, but it was made that much more difficult because this was, in fact, my first rodeo – well, youth fair.

I really should have attended my first WCYF years ago – and, actually, I did. But it was because a nephew or two was in the barbecue cook-off at the fair.

Years ago, I spent time with family and friends around the barbecue pits listening to music and tasting the wares. It was a memorable feast, but it was not work at all – for me. None of my family were showing animals in any shows so I never got to experience that part.

When you see how well run these shows are, and how well reporters get the information out to the public, it really belies all the work that goes on to put on a show like this, and to report well on one.

Steer and their handlers are moved in quickly, paraded around and examined thoroughly, and there are even large beasts that just don’t want to perform on a particular day. But the show goes on.

And, it goes on quickly.

I heard the names of the winners announced as the young handlers led their livestock out one side of the Ammann arena and suddenly the names and affiliations of the next class of steer were on their way in the other side.

I tried following the winners, but they moved with such purpose, and with the grace of this NOT being their first rodeo/fair, I just couldn’t keep up with what was going on.

I met the photographer taking the official photos of the winners, but it was an amazing amount of work for her just to get the family and cow to stand posed for a photo that I didn’t want to get in the way.

Someone asked me a question and before I knew it the winner was off to who knows where.

I needed a map and directions to find my way around, and I think a compass might have helped too.

I would gladly go again.

And, I would gladly report on it again – after all, practice makes perfect.

But I would like to go to the next youth fair with a seasoned reporter who could show me the way around and point out the pitfalls – and the poo-falls.


– Al Dubé

A transplanted Yankee living in Boling.

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