On Saturday afternoon at the Douglas County Fair, Kendall Holcomb, 12, a member of the Elkton Wranglers 4-H club, shoveled manure from the barn where her Hereford Angus cows quietly chewed their cud.
Sadie, Dash and the calf Bonnie are all female so unlike the steers in the barn they aren’t being sold for meat.
Holcomb lives on a ranch where her father and uncle are raising 700 head of cattle. These three were in the field three weeks ago but they are more like pets, she said. She tames them by keeping them well fed.
“The more full they are, the more doggy they’ll be and the safer they are, and the more they like you,” she said.
By doggy, she means calm.
This is Kendall’s third year in 4-H and she loves it.
“I like everything about it. It’s really fun for me,” she said.
For Kendall, this is training for the work she intends to perform as an adult. She takes all of it in stride, even the messy business of scooping the poop.
“I don’t mind it at all,” she said.
In the next building over, Kennedy Warmbo, 15, a member of Glendale FFA, was cuddled up with her pig Pickles in his enclosure.
“He kind of likes it when I sit with him a bit. Also when I’m bored or lonely I sit here with him,” she said.
This is Kennedy’s second year raising a pig for the fair. Animals have always been interesting to her, and pigs are really tame and calm, she said.
“He’s just very special,” she said of Pickles.
Ellie Smith, 4, was eager to enter the enclosure and give Pickles a pet. So she went in, accompanied by her grandmother Jane Smith.
Ellie’s father Brett Smith and mother Mikyela Cavaner said she really loves pigs. They raise livestock at their home and anticipate that Ellie will be at the fair with her own 4-H animal one day.
“As much as she’s into the animals we have out there, definitely,” Brett Smith said.
Kennedy said a lot of people have stepped in to pet Pickles.
She’s been sold to Swanson Group for $8 a pound and that means $1,900 will go into Kennedy’s savings account. But it’s going to be tough to let Pickles go.
“I almost cried like twice,” Kennedy said.
In the small animal barn Conor Hendrick, 12, lined up with other 4-H students to show a Mini Rex rabbit named Skittles that belongs to a friend. Hendrick raises Rhode Island Red and Golden Laced Wyandotte chickens, but he’d like to have a rabbit at next year’s fair. He is a member of Riddle Nickel and Needle 4-H.
Grandparents Cherie and Hugh Cheeseman said Conor and his cousin Emma Cheeseman have their animals at their place. They said 4-H is great for the kids.
“It teaches them responsibility. It teaches them to care about other things besides just themselves,” Cherie Cheeseman said.
She said it also gives them a sense of community to be part of a 4-H team.
“It’s like a nurturing little community of caring and responsible young people,” she said.
Conor said he enjoyed showing the Mini Rex.
“It’s awesome to be able to do something new like that. I’ve been holding rabbits but I’ve never learned how to show one,” he said.
Emma Cheeseman, 10, was almost at the other end of the table, showing a guinea pig named Star.
Guinea pigs are hard work, she said. They have to be fed and watered every day. They have to be fed vitamin C, which they can’t produce on their own, and their eyes, ears and teeth have to be kept clean. And then you have to handle them a lot so they are ready for the show.
“It’s really fun though. You get to play with them a lot,” she said.