Take the Lead

Our county sheep show was this past weekend at Windy Hill Farm (the old Breck Ellison farm) in Loudon County. This gorgeous farm is kindly loaned to Loudon County 4-H for the day to exhibit sheep and cattle in their old sale barn. A great time was had by all and I’m fairly certain that sheep showing in the Shanks family has a bright future. K was able to show her first lamb in the Pee Wee Showmanship class along with several other youngsters. Be still my heart! Little ones leading lambs in a show ring with their friends and family is an absolutely precious site!

I kept asking K that morning if she was ready to go show sheep with her daddy. I got mixed reviews each time…several head shakes yes, several no…..I’m not sure she really understood but if it was with daddy then it was a yes!

We made it to the farm and K was in heaven! Lambs were tied up everywhere for her to pet and there was even a horse for Bubba (her uncle and my big brother) to let her love on 🙂 She had a blast petting all the sheep and meeting new friends.


Before we went in the ring together for Pee Wee Showmanship I couldn’t help but be a little bit sad. K is growing up so fast and the way she loves all her animals just warms my heart! This was her very first time taking a lamb into the ring and I know it’s the first of many more showmanship heats, market lamb classes, and Southdown breeding ewe classes. To say we are excited about show season is an understatement!

Doug and I still show sheep quite a bit at county fairs, but I know this year will be extra special because we will have a little shadow following us and learning the ways of showing livestock. As stock show folks we all need to remember that the little ones are always watching and absorbing every little action, bit of information, and every little thing that we say. You see many types of parents at stock shows, and over the years I’ve seen almost every type. I’ve seen parents yelling at their child from the side of the ring, barking at them to set them lamb up better, and I’ve also seen parents quietly beaming with pride as their child works hard and ends up at the top of a class in Louisville. There is no perfect stock show parent, but we all must strive to lift our children up, teach them to work hard and that hard work pays off, but also teach them to lose and win with grace. The judge’s opinion may not be in your favor that day, but that doesn’t mean that you go back to the barn and bad mouth the judge, call him an idiot, and say hurtful things about a competitors lambs. You just don’t do that, and when I am tempted to do this very thing I think about how awful that would sound to another competitor or a child who may be listening. Think before you speak. Little ears are listening and learning! They will act like you one day and although actions speak louder than words, words cannot be taken back once they leave your lips.


I pray that Doug and I can teach K everything we know about showing sheep and I hope she is able to beat her daddy at showing lambs one day soon. I hope she is a fierce competitor who makes friends in the barn and celebrates everyone’s accomplishments (not just her own) with happiness and grace. Sure she might have bad days, and so will her dad and me, but in the end what matters is that we are raising kids, stock show kids. We are raising them to be the next generation of livestock men and women who truly enjoy this lifestyle we all know and love.

When the time is right K will go in the ring by herself leading a lamb (hopefully a Southdown ewe lamb) and Doug and I will make sure she has all the tools to be successful. When she is ready to take the lead we will be right there by her side encouraging her every step of the way. Until then Mommy and Daddy will both help her in Pee Wee classes as long as she will let us! Before we know it she will be leading a Southdown ram onto the green shavings in Louisville or driving a 260 lb. hog at the state 4-H hog show, so we will enjoy her showing with us while we can 🙂

-Thank you for reading!

Jessy Shanks

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