Everyone holds a special place in their heart for their first show calf. The one that started it all. The one that began the journey of buckles, banners and memories. The calf that hooked you on the stock show life and taught you all the lessons of hard work and responsibility.
My first show calf was a Charolais named Conan. He was a big yellow puppy dog. I adored him. He was a home raised calf and I know my Dad chose him for me because he was gentle.
(Conan, me on the halter and my big sister holding the trophy)
Do you remember the first time you entered the ring with your first calf? You had a lot to learn in that first year and continued learning in the years after. You learned how to win humbly and how to lose without showing disappointment. You learned everyday care of your show calf from feeding to grooming. You learned show ring etiquette and the tricks for moving feet and pulling tops. You were greatly outsized by your calf but you learned to work together and you became a team.
Conan won Reserve Champion steer at our county show my first year of showing. I was in third grade and my family was there to support me. We are a stock show family and showing was what we did together as a family.
Conan and I won a couple of jackpot buckles and a few trophies that year but he taught me a lot about showing cattle. Conan and I made our major show debut at Houston and he made the sale. I remember the walk back to the truck with my Dad and I was carrying that empty halter. We all have experienced it. Your heart hurts like you lost a friend. You worked so hard together for months and all the sudden it was over and your buddy was gone forever. On that walk, you thought about how a 1200+ pound animal did what you asked and you worked together to build trust and work as a team.
My Dad and I made a lot of "empty halter walks" in my show career. He would always put his arm around me as I cried on the way to the truck and he would talk about all the new baby calves at home. We would talk about which calves we thought would be in my show string the next year. That would be the only remedy for my aching heart but I never forgot Conan.