|Two Friends, Two Steers:|
Two Champs at Jr. Beef Expo Show
On an early Sunday night in March, Kate Johnson kissed a cow. And, if the truth be known, so did Morgan Graham.
On that night, Kate and Morgan said goodbye to the steers that had been a daily part of their lives for a year. They had worked with the steers and grooming them for shows with hopes of ultimately seeing them "crowned" grand champion.
Then, when the dust settled on the 103 competing steers at the Alabama State Beef Expo Steer Show March 11, Kate’s steer, Troubadour, was named the Grand Champion Steer of the 2011 show and Morgan’s steer, Atlas, was named the Champion Alabama Bred Steer.
Two friends, two steers and two championships.
Tammy Powell, retired Pike County Extension coordinator, said this was the first time in a long time a Pike County youth showed an Grand Champion of the state steer show and, probably, the first time ever the county could boast two state champions in the same year.
"Kate and Morgan are very deserving of this recognition," Powell said. "They have both been showing calves since fourth grade. They are hard-working, dedicated young women and both of them love being a part of the steer and heifer program, and they are committed to the future of the program. They are to be congratulated on a job well done."
"Well done" implies their job is finished and, for Kate and Morgan, that’s perhaps the hardest part. Saying goodbye to Troubadour and Atlas was much more difficult than getting up at daybreak to feed and water their animals, and much harder than working with them and caring for them on a daily basis for nearly a year. Saying goodbye, "That’s the really hard part."
Morgan said she cried when Atlas was driven away that Sunday night and Kate admitted she shed more than a few tears.
"I kissed Troubadour and said goodbye to him, and I was sad," Kate said. "But I’ve been doing this for a long time and I try not to get as attached to my steers as I used to. This is what we raise them for, so …"
Kate is a junior at Charles Henderson High School and Morgan is a sophomore at Pike Liberal Arts School. Since both schools are in Troy and they are both members of Pike County 4-H clubs and compete together at the Pike County Steer and Heifer Show, the girls are good friends.
"We compete against each other, but we support each other, too," Morgan said. "This year, I ran for Director of the Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association and won, and Kate campaigned for me. We are friends who compete against each other."
Kate said, too, the competition between the two is friendly and their friendship is strengthened by their being members of a small "sorority"–those whose "sport" is showing calves.
"Most of our friends don’t know much about showing calves and they don’t know how much work goes into it," Morgan explained. "They don’t have any idea how hard it is and how much time it takes."
If they knew, they might be more appreciative of the "sport," Kate said.
"My paw-paw got my brother interested in showing calves and I thought it was so cool. I couldn’t wait until I got old enough to show," she recalled. "But a lot of my friends didn’t think it was a girly thing to walk around with a steer. I used to get teased a lot, but that doesn’t happen much anymore."
Kate tries to girly-up by wearing a fancy belt that glitters. But there is nothing that glitters like the words "grand champion."
"I thought Troubadour might have a shot at the championship, but I wasn’t sure I could seal the deal," Kate said. "There were about 10 steers that could have won the title. I almost started crying when I knew we had won. That’s what we had worked so hard for and it happened."
Morgan was just as happy and honored when Atlas was chosen as the Champion Alabama Bred Steer.
"We bought Atlas from Diamond M Farms in Waverly," she said. "When I saw him, I knew he was the one I wanted. He was a red steer and there was just something about him. I knew he was special."
Atlas proved to be just as special as Morgan thought he was and Troubadour proved to be the champion Kate thought he could be.
Two friends and two champion steers — a storybook ending.
Kate and Morgan were quick to say they couldn’t have accomplished their goals if it had not been for the encouragement and support, and a gentle push every now and then, from their families.
Showing calves is a family endeavor and Kate and Morgan both share their championships with their families.
Both said they enjoy being with their families and showing calves has brought them all closer in many different ways.
"Without our families, we could not have even competed and we certainly could not have won championships," they said.
Morgan and Kate both plan to attend Auburn University and major in agriculture. And, if they could look into a crystal ball, they would hope to see their own children in the ring in quest of a state championship steer and them cheering in the wings.
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.