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What is it like to show livestock?

It’s a question many spectators at a show wonder. For Roseau County 4-H member, Alexa Kihle, showing livestock is a family affair. Going all the way back to the 1940s, when her great-grandmother showed cattle with 4-H in Nebraska.

Though Alexa has exhibited a variety of 4-H projects, including gardening, performing arts, food and nutrition, it’s her experience showing swine that has truly made a difference in her life. It was these experiences that inspired her to answer the question, “What is it like to show livestock?” in the following essay.

That’s Why You Started

She looks at you with a great sparkle in her eye. Then she grunts. A hearty, playful little sound. Her tail is wagging from her excitement. She jumps around and around waiting for you to open the gate. You softly giggle as you do it too. She joyfully frolics past you, and you frolic right after her. The two of you are best friends. She’s there when you can’t talk or even look at people. She’s there when you need a little extra encouragement. You’re her world and she’s your everything. You watch her and how happy she is. A tear softly rolls down your cheek. You gradually smile as you remember the precious time you were able to spend with her. You look around at the tears and sniffling around you, and you remember why you started. You couldn’t imagine not being here with her, and the joys that come with this responsibility. You look down at your dusty, barn smelling boots as she comes up to you. She stands by your feet as you stroke her for the last time. It’s time for her to frolic without you for the first time. It’s time for her to leave your side and this summer you spent with her to become a’s time for you to say goodbye.

That’s when you remember why you started.

You started for the friendship. The new friends you make each year and the old ones you get to see again while showing. Sharing your passion with those that will always be there. You may live in different towns or even states, but the passion in the ring and the love for the program you all share are the things that keep you coming back each year, for another experience.

You started for the memories. The pride you felt after getting the Grand Champion and receiving a state fair trip, and the time it took for you to get there. When it comes to your last year, you remember all the things you’re going to miss. Your first time showing, back when you were a Cloverbud, watching the big kids show and aspiring to show like them. And now, as you give her one last hug and watch her leave you, you remember why you started, too.

You started for the early morning show days. At the wee morning hours when you know all of your friends are still sleeping, you always got up. You shuffle on some chore clothes and head to the barn to spend some time growing with your bestie. She’ll be so happy to see you that she’ll wake up the barn with her cries of excitement.

What’s the biggest reward though? Walking into that show ring with your mind on ice and your heart on fire. After all, you and your bestie are the perfect team.

You started for the hard work and dedication. You remember wanting to quit because it was too much work. You remember walking away after she was being stubborn. You remember asking yourself why you would ever do this. And then you remember why you started.

You started for the more complicated days. The days where she just wouldn’t listen. The days where you just felt like it wasn’t worth it. But, you got through it and reminded yourself why. Why you love her. Why you can’t imagine doing something else with your summer. Why she is your greatest accomplishment every fair.

You started because you can’t imagine why you wouldn’t. You think back to the days where you didn’t show and it’s a blur. You can’t remember a time when you didn’t. You can’t remember a day in the past where you weren’t with her every day, making the best better.

You started even though you knew what was coming. It happens every year. You know what comes at the end of every summer. A part of you never ever wants to go through it again.

That’s when you think about next year. When you’ll get a new best friend to raise and grow with. And that’s when you remember why you started. For the friends, the unforgettable moments, and the show days. For the effort it took, the hard days, and the happiness to do it all over again.

That’s why you started.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward.

Alexa is a leader in her community. She serves as a county ambassador, camp counselor and club officer. These roles have inspired her to pursue post-secondary education with plans to be a veterinary technician. She aspires to train therapy dogs and police K-9’s.

Thanks for sharing how 4-H inspires you to do, Alexis!

Janelle Hueners
University of Minnesota student
Chisago 4-H alum
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