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|We bought our first longhorns in 1998 as a hobby for my neice Stephanie. I thought dad had lost his mind when he showed up and said that he had bought Stephanie a calf to show. When he said it was a longhorn, I was sure of it. We've had cows of all sorts through the years, but never longhorns, and Stephanie had never shown any kind of animal. At this point, I could already see a train wreck on the horizon.
Within two months we were at our first show. I was familiar with cattle shows from friends whos kids had been showing for years. I went to support Stephanie knowing that other kids would have more experience and more confidence. To my surprise, she nailed it on her first trip to the ring and got first place with her calf. Dad whooped and hollared for the first time since mom passed away, and I knew immediately that I was being dragged...kicking and screaming...into the longhorn business.
More calves came, and we went to more shows, and things grew pretty fast. One of Stephanie's friends from school, Danielle, started coming on the weekends and got interested in showing. Then a childhood friend, Donna, got her two boys, James and Justin involved, and they started showing with us. Then Danielle's cousins, Kurt, Sean, and Marc wanted to show, and things got to snowballing along pretty quickly. Our first trailer was a 12' trailer, which we quickly out-grew. Then it took a 16' to get us to the show, then a 16' and 12', then two 16' trailers, next, anything that had a hitch on it was pulling something to the shows. We must have really been a spectacle coming down the road. With 7 kids and four families now, longhorns became our weekend activity that everything centered around.
Still being new to the game, we decided that we needed to get all our kids up on the same page as some of the more experienced kids so they would have a better chance in the show ring. In 1999 we held our first youth camp for about 12 kids, and brought in some experienced longhorn people to give the kids instructions in handling their cattle, grooming, showmanship, cattle evaluation, etc. We had fun at the camp, and decided to make it an annual event. The RV Ranch Youth Camp has grown from that simple plan into a camp with as many as 43 kids from all across Texas, and out of state as well. We have sponsors now that keep the overnight camp free to the kids, a group of instructors that bring a wealth of knowledge and vets and nutritionist who pitch their experience as well. 2003 was our 5th year for the camp, and we plan on having it as long as there is a need. Last year's camp had all of the now 'seasoned' veterans returning, but had the most new kids that we have ever seen. It really does my heart good to see all of these new families and new kids working with their animals and getting interested in longhorns. Find out more about our youth camp by clicking on the link below.
From being involved in the shows, it was only a matter of time before I would be elected to volunteer for something. I made my first stab as show chairman for our affiliate, Metroplex Texas Longhorn Association, and was able to pull off a few successful shows the last couple of years. I was elected president of the affiliate, and served in that position from 2001-2002, during which time I also published the newsletter. I was determined to put some fun back into the shows, and provide a wholesome environment for the kids to enjoy. We were very successful the past couple of years with well attended shows, and generous members. Our youth membership grew to over 40 kids, and dad got busy to find us corporate sponsors to support our youth group. We managed to get up to $1100 each year to support the kids participation awards, and youth events. We took the kids out of the show ring and into Christmas parties, fun days at Hurricane Harbor, and nights of bowling to let them have fun with each other without the competitive edge. The success of the shows allowed us to purchase things for the affiliate rather than having to rent. We now have concession items, a P.A. system and speakers, tables, a display for our shows, and plenty of office supplies. The board also voted to purchase a utility trailer to store and haul all of our stuff in. With the logos painted on the sides, I think we are the first affiliate to be able to have a trailer to use in this manner. As part of the success we were having, I felt it was important to be able to give something back to the people responsible. Each of the two years I served, I suggested to the executive board that we have a get together for the membership, have a meal, and that MTLA pick up the tab for everything. Our first event was a branding party where we branded the Hoffbrau Steak House up in Ft. Worth. Everyone came expecting to pay for their meal, but MTLA picked up the tab for the 40 plus members who showed up. I received many phone calls and emails after that event saying what a first class gesture that was, and decided then, that I would try to do it again. The next year, we had a huge surplus from our first show, and the executive board agreed that we should try the same thing at the dinner we had planned for our Tarleton show. We invited everyone to eat dinner with us, but didn't announce that we had plans to pick up the check. At the restaurant, everyone ordered what they wanted, and we surprised them by picking up the check for their meals. It was a great reward for myself to know that I had been a part of giving something back to our members and friends. In a non-profit organization the backbone of your success is measured in the devotion of your volunteers, and even small rewards can carry that success to great heights. I hope that the future leaders of MTLA will approach the position with the same enthusiasm as I did, and lend their particular talents to the continued success of our affiliate.
From unwilling partner, to National Show Chairman and Affiliate President, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the longhorn business. I've had my up's and down's for sure, and every time I got beat up a bit and wanted to quit, someone would come forward and do something that assured me that the efforts were worth it and appreciated. Our longhorn family around the ranch has grown to the point that one facility can no longer support our cattle, and they have branched out on their own. Stephanie has graduted now, and we're looking to see if the show ring will continue to play a role in her adult life. The drouth in Texas has forced many a breeder out of business, and we've had to sell our herd down to what we can support with feed, but we're still here. I imagine I'll have longhorns forever. We never "enjoyed" having cattle before. The longhorns are different. With their colors, each new calf is a welcomed surprise. They are loving, enjoy attention, and have individual personalities. None of our so called "beef" cattle were enjoyable, and after dispelling the historical rumors that longhorns were undesireable, I think we've found what we're looking for. We've had a great ride, and hope to see you on the trail!.
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