This year I decided to take a survey of all my 4-H children who came to buy meat goat projects. These are the children not teen-agers, all under twelve years of age, who have shown or who are about to show and have also been going to the fairs for a while to watch. The younger ones are more willing to share their wisdom on the matter of grand champions and I learned a lot.
First, they all agreed you needed a goat for the meat goat class. Very important. Also, you had to get your parents moving in time to get one. I had children call me or email me a month or two before my girls started kidding to get their kidding times. They considered their parents not quite on the ball about getting a goat and when the aggravated parent said they should call and check about one, they did. I've had parents get busy on other things and call past weaning time to get a goat for their child and they all were sold. Sometimes this happens.
This year I had 34 market kids to sell and they all were sold by their second week-end of being on this earth. One kid sold before he was a day old. They all stayed with me until weaning, but they were sold. You can hit a year like that and children remember or hear about it and try really hard to get a fire lit under mom or dad to hurry and get their kid saved.
Second, choosing that kid. The 4-H children had it down to a science. One little girl informed me that she had studied the goat classes at the fair the previous year, and the one who won had his tail curled up over his back. So, she went through all the kids and picked one with his tail curled tightest over his back.
Another 4-Híer picked out a kid because he had pretty eyes. It sure didnít hurt that he was a 98.44% Boer kid and even for one so young was a real chunk of muscle, but she never noticed that, she loved his eyes. I donít think sheíll be disappointed at show time.
The next child told me that they had to have a red head to win. Thatís what she saw at her fair last year. The little girl who thought the eyes would win it, disagreed with her, but they both were very pleased with what they chose.
Now, I name a lot of my 4-H kids, even though I know they will get an entirely different name when they go to their new homes. To some children the name will win the class. The kid Mr. Rogers was instantly picked and several children were disappointed they had not been there first to get him. Now, on the other hand, Iíve learned not to name a kid "Barney", after the purple dinosaur on PBS. The 4-H children seem to think that a baby name and will walk away from Barney. But, for some reason, Mr. Rogers holds true, even now.
If a goat kid is extremely friendly, children will pick him immediately. To them, this is what makes the next Grand Champion and they are happy. One little girl didnít think the friendly ones would drag you around the ring. She said it was important that you didnít get dragged around the ring. You donít get Grand Champion then.
And, what were the parents doing while the children were making their picks? Staying out of the way. When a parent tried to do the choosing and it wasnít the one the younger child wanted, you saw sincere trembling of the lips and tears rising. This was not because the child was spoiled and would get whatever they wanted by acting this way. It was because that 4-Híer had truly fallen for that little kid and desperately wanted to raise that particular one. Usually then it would be the parent who would then have a tear in their eye and a trembling of their lip and would weakly explain they were just doing it for the fun of it anyway, not to whip out all the competition, and they would let their child go ahead and chose. I couldnít help but smile then and think, if they do their homework and raise these chunky goat kids right, they just might be surprised to find they are the ones everyone is trying to beat.
Ah well, next year my return 4-Híers will be older, have a glint in their eyes and a hardness to their stare as they look over my new crop of 4-H projects. No more squeals of "How pretty!" Isnít he sweet?!" or "He likes me!" They will be in it for purely the winning, which is what most the parents wanted to begin with. And, they wonít be disappointed in what they find here, which they didnít understand last year.
But, looking on the up side, Iím bound to get some brand new 4-Híers and will still hear happy squeals of "How pretty!" "Isnít he sweet?" "He likes me!" And, we all will be looking for the ones with the tightest curled tail, the prettiest eyes, the friendliest one, or Mr. Rogers. Professional 4-Híers are fun when they critically admire your stock, but the brand new 4-Híers can certainly make you smile and laugh as they enjoy your herd of kids. End of survey.