The first animal I ever owned all by myself, or in this case owned me, was the meanest show steer in existence. I named him Abe, in honor of my idol Abraham Lincoln and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to our 16th President for desecrating his name in such a manner.
Abe was an Angus steer my teacher picked out for me and I learned my lesson right there to never let another person buy livestock for me and in 40 years of trading cattle I never did.
I don’t want any Angus breeders getting mad at me for implying that Angus have a disposition problem but ancient Angus breeders will admit that Angus cattle 50 years ago could run a little ‘hot’. If there are any Angus breeders who question my loyalty to the breed may I remind them that every one of my show steers were Angus and the first breeding cattle I ever bought were four purebred Angus heifers and an Angus bull. This comprised my show string that I paraded all over by the time I was 17.
Not only was Abe a bad actor he was also a chronic bloater which meant I spent hours walking him until he released all the greenhouse gases bottled up inside him. And believe me, Abe had a carbon footprint bigger than Al Gore. Speaking of footprints, Abe was the best kicker I’ve ever come in contact with.
To get ready for the fair we had a practice show at the ball field and my teacher held a safety rope around Abe’s neck just in case I couldn’t control him. To no one’s surprise Abe got away from me and drug my teacher around the bases before someone’s father saved my teacher’s life by cutting my brand new neck rope. But this only raised a far bigger problem: how were we going to catch Abe before he scaled the fence to terrorize and torment the town? I had several rodeo contractors bidding for Abe’s services and Abe would have made me filthy rich if he’d have been left intact.
You can imagine how surprised everyone was when Abe and I won the county fair showmanship contest but by then Abe had taken pity on me and stood as still and straight as a West Point plebe. And I swear I didn’t use any pharmaceuticals to subdue him. I didn’t even know such things existed but still that was the rumor around the barns. How else could I explain the magical metamorphosis?
Winning beef showmanship meant I qualified to compete in the round robin where the winners of the sheep, swine, beef and dairy contests had to show each others animal. You can imagine the fear that swept over the fairgrounds. I could certainly see it in the eyes of the tiny gal who’d won hog showmanship when we exchanged a lead strap for a cane. The problem for the others was that Abe was a one-man steer and everyone knew it. In anticipation fair officials relocated the ambulance from the rodeo grounds to the showmanship arena and calf ropers had their ropes at the ready.
The casualties that day included a sheep showman who got PTSD, the aforementioned hog showman who became a vegetarian for life, and a dairy showman with chronic foot problems after Abe had walked all over his feet. (Actually Abe may have saved that guy’s life because he didn’t pass the physical to go to the Vietnam Meat Grinder due to the flat feet Abe gave him.)
The ultimate disgrace occurred when all the winners took a turn around the rodeo arena at the big Saturday night rodeo, which was meant to be a big honor, but by this time fair officials had seen enough of Abe and they were worried Abe would get loose and menace the midway. So Abe was left tied up in his stall and what should have been my most memorable moment turned into my worst nightmare because I had to ride on a flatbed trailer with the fair queen and her court. And to top it off I had to wear white show pants!
In summation, I lost $13 dollars for countless hours of surviving Abe, cried the night before they hauled him away and couldn’t wait to buy my next steer.