I’ve never known another way of life.
My earliest memories with my dad involved bundling up to venture to the barn to see the latest calf to be born. Watching him on the mic as a judge, or witnessing him at the halter at cattle shows from coast to coast.
And eventually, working side-by-side with him and my brother at our southern Indiana family farm, rinsing and working hair on the year’s 4-H calves and Simmental and Shorthorn junior national projects.
Sometimes, I brought home the purple ribbon. Sometimes not. But getting that hug and “good job” from my dad as I exited the ring was the ultimate reward in my young mind.
I have always been known as “Bill Couch’s daughter.” And I’m good with that.
Dad’s passion for the cattle industry took us to ranches in Texas and to Yukon, Okla., where he worked as general manager of Express Ranches – which eventually grew to become one of the largest cow-calf operations in the country.
Due to health issues, dad has slowed down a bit. It happens to us all.
But dad instilled a passion for the cattle industry within my brother and me. And I knew I wanted to stay involved. Since graduating from Oklahoma State University 15 years ago, I’ve lived that dream as a writer and photographer for many publications in the livestock world.
I was blessed to marry a Midwest farm boy more than a decade ago. Craig and I began our life together near his family farm in east central Illinois, where he sells farm equipment and we have raised a few head of cattle through the years.
It has always been a dream of ours to raise children in that way of life, too. And now, that dream is unfolding before our very eyes.
Our home is now filled with the sounds (and often chaos) of three little ones – Waylon, 8; Nolan, 5; and Caroline, 2. And last year, we joined the ranks of “show parents,” as Waylon became a first-year member of the National Junior Hereford Association with heifers Bella and Charlie.
Oh, the lessons we all learned. And, oh, how different it is to be on the outside of the ring, watching your child at the halter. I don’t believe I’ve ever felt more stress or more pride all wrapped up into a little bundle.
It. Was. Incredible.
Now, we are expecting the first round of calves. We are entering the world of 4-H and county fairs. We have purchased the first steer, Lightning, and the next two Hereford heifers, Velma and Teddie, who will make the trek to the Junior National Hereford Expo in Harrisburg, Pa., this summer.
Through this blog, I look forward to sharing our journey in this new chapter of our lives.
I’m sure there will be smiles. Maybe a few tears. And advice from more seasoned show parents on how to make this crazy lifestyle work.
Ultimately, Craig and I just hope our children can look back on these years with the same fondness of a cattle kid, too. Perhaps carry the tradition into the next generation.
And really, isn’t that all any show parent desires?