Keeping Austin Weird: Crash course at the fair

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, March 2, 2019
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Show Prep

SHOW PREP – Jackson Cozby of Boyd washes his Longhorn before the show Tuesday morning at the Wise County Youth Fair. Austin Jackson got a crash course in county fairs this week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“You own boots?!” my editor Richard Greene asked, shocked at the sight of my slightly taller and much more honky tonky visage entering the office this week.

Yes, Richard, I own boots.

I got my yeehaw shoes in 2011, and just haven’t had much use for them over the past eight years.

That is up until Wednesday, when I finally got a little dust on the shiny, creased leather cowboy boots while I dressed the part at the Wise County Youth Fair.

Austin Jackson

You see, my childhood was spent in the suburbs. Homeowners associations prevented horses and farm animals from entering my world. I didn’t much care to look for them between skateboarding and playing golf.

But the HOA didn’t stop me from seeing a glimpse of what that life is all about this week.

I couldn’t tell two cows apart and probably still can’t very accurately. Nonetheless, I’m still amazed at what some of these young FFA and 4-H folk do.

On Wednesday, Messenger Publisher Kristen Tribe gave us all a tour, showcasing different aspects of FFA and 4-H life.

When I returned the following day, after the weather dipped into the 20s, I came to better understand the amount of responsibility and work it takes to care for these animals.

Hailey Copen of Decatur FFA is one of the hundreds that showed. It was her first year, and she came out winning despite the temperature dipping from the 70s to below freezing.

“I sit in there with them to make sure their body keeps warm,” Copen said. “I sat with my pig and everything got warmer.”

And this is just the work during show season. These kids have logged months of early mornings and long nights spent shoveling manure, feeding them, watering them, bathing them and brushing them, whether it be cows, steers, pigs, bunnies or goats.

These kids are more responsible than most of the adults I know. As they show, it shows.

At an early age, too.

Case in point: 8-year-old Kylee Gaston, who led and showed her grand champion steer around the arena. And despite being tiny and the steer being huge and slightly ornery, commanding it with presence and never panicking.

Each student I spoke with was articulate, confident and kind. Not just a bunch of country bumpkins, as I would have assumed years ago.

It’s a different lifestyle than the one I’m accustomed to, but it’s one that has left me very impressed.

I’ve worn my boots the rest of the week. I’m a poser, sure, but I’m just trying to be like those kids who set such a great example for this county.

Austin Jackson is a reporter for the Wise County Messenger.

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