Judging steers in the dark

When I was barely a teenager, I joined 4-H and one of my favorite things that I became involved with was livestock judging. For those that don’t know what judging is, it’s a contest where competitors evaluate classes of four animals (beef, sheep, swine) and then give several sets of reasons (basically a speech on why you placed the animals the way you did). Classes are worth 50 points, and deductions are decided upon by the officials. Reasons are worth 50 points as well, and judges score them accordingly.

When I was in high school we had a very dedicated county Extension agent, and he somehow managed to wrangle a dozen kids or more and take us to compete at local contests. From about January until before the county fair, and then in August and September, we spent time on Saturdays at contests and weeknights at judging practice.

Our team became one of the best in the area. In 1994 we placed well enough to represent Kansas at the American Royal at the 4-H judging contest, where we didn’t disappoint. In 1995, the Ford County 4-H livestock judging team won the state contest. This allowed us to compete at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky.

Judging not only taught me livestock evaluation skills and speaking skills it helped me get a college scholarship to compete on the judging team at Hutchinson Community College. We worked even harder at placing classes of livestock and giving reasons. I still to this day can “work-up” a set of reasons on several classes of livestock. It is that ingrained into my brain.

Last night my husband needed help loading some steers he has been feeding to butcher. It was dark, and I had to step up and pick one since he had two already picked out to go. With four steers in the pen, and me in my Carhartt coat, I was immediately taken back 15 years. I bravely stepped up to get one to move off so I could see how wide he was from behind, and got a better look at how finished he was. I crawled up on the fence to get a better view of their toplines. I hesitated to pick one, remembering all the times where I screwed a class up and lost a lot of points, but eventually I found the one I wanted and we both agreed on it. I was amazed that after all these years I could still place a class of steers.

The 1995 Kansas State Champion Livestock Judging Team. Pictured from left to right, Rylene (Orebaugh) Hessman, Nathan Martin, Candi (Orebaugh) Bailey, Tanner Dowling, Kylene (Orebaugh) Scott and Coach Jerry Dreher.

Red dirt

No, I’m not talking about the kind of red dirt under your feet, but instead a kind of music. Some even call it Texas Country. I heard an interview on the radio this morning and the DJ said they were one of the few stations in the state of Kansas who play Texas Country. It made my heart sing a little.

I was introduced to Red Dirt music more than 10 years ago. I was attending K-State at the time, and my sister was at Oklahoma State. She had a CD of Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and one weekend when we were together, she put it in my pickup’s CD player. I was hooked, and she barely got her CD back.

In the spring of 2000, I headed to enroll in Oklahoma State University for the following year and visit my sister who was already living in Stillwater. We had tickets to attend the annual Tumbleweed Testicle Festival as well. The event now features a number of red dirt artists and is still held every April at the Tumbleweed Dance Hall. www.calffry.com. It’s coming up this weekend, April 26, 27 and 28.

While living in Stillwater, we had the opportunity to see a number of bands as they were starting out, and it sure is good to hear some of them on the radio now, mixed in amongst the crappy mainstream “country.”

My favorites still remain the same, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Cross Canadian Ragweed (now defunct, but Cody Canada and the Departed are touring), (the original) Great Divide, Gary Allan and now I’ve added: Randy Rogers Band, Eli Young Band, Casey Donahew, Stoney Larue and many more.

The local station, 96.3 the Marshall, has a couple of hours on Fridays dedicated to Red Dirt. Sure makes me happy to hear “Pearl Snaps” or another Red Dirt song that takes me back to Stillwater, Okla., and College Days.

A $7 taco

I caught an episode of Two and a Half Men recently and the scene showed Alan playing what I would call “credit card roulette.” Pay this card with this card, and then this one with that card. But what do I do with the last bill to pay? Hmmm…

My finances aren’t quite that bad, but I still have some credit cards that I wish I would have never gotten. I was a stupid college kid living out-of-state and trying to live on my own when a Discover card offer flashed in front of my naive eyes. I jumped on it and used it to pay everything from meals out with friends to entry fees at the rodeos. Shockingly they gave me a $2,500 limit way back then and I didn’t even have a job! Sucked me in, and it didn’t take me very long to get it up to its limit.

I still have that card, and it’s still got a balance on it along with crazy interest. I’ve been trying to get them paid off, but seems like a never-ending battle. Sure I could get serious and cut out all non-essential items out of my budget and sock it way to pay off that Discover bill from college, but what fun would that be? Still seeing several hundred dollars go out of my account to pay off credit cards should be some incentive to get rid of them, right?

I haven’t used my Discover card for years. Last three cards they sent me I never activated and shredded. Within the last two years they have upped my limit at least 4 times, maybe 5. I guess it makes the balance I do carry on it look not as bad – at least in my eyes anyway – now that there is a lot more than $50 of credit (like I used to have in college) remaining on it.

Today in my mailbox was a letter from Discover, and guess what? They upped my limit once more. Why keep upping my limit? Do they think they are going to entice me to use it? Not a chance. No way, no how. Heck, I’m still paying for that $7 taco from college.

Red dirt and green grass

Driving through northwest Oklahoma the last two days made me miss it an awful lot. There is nothing prettier in my mind than red dirt and green grass. The stark contrast between the green and red along with the blue skies makes my mind feel at ease. Heck even the brown/gray grass of winter paired with red dirt is more interesting to look at than the soils around here.

Here’s a couple photos I took several years ago. Enjoy.

The view near Alabaster Caverns in northwest Oklahoma.