"He's my puppy dog," said 11-year-old Keylan Williams. Except, when Keylan walks his dog, he's outweighed 15 to 1. "1,211 pounds?" asked a reporter standing next to a steer. "Yes sir," he replied. "What do you weigh?," Keylan was asked. "Uhhm, 80," he answered.
He's one of 1,000 kids competing in the annual Lubbock County Junior Livestock Show. "It a very big deal," said 17-year-old Michelle Burns. She's been competing since she was 9. "Mine is right here beside me," she said. Like most steers though, hers doesn't have a name. A strategy to prevent getting emotionally involved with tomorrow's BBQ. Some of them, however, are given makeshift names the day of the show. "That one standing up over there," pointed 12-year-old Tyler Hatley, "I just call him Big'un," he said.
In the world of steers, these are supermodels. "Just walk these three," said judge Jim Mazurkiewicz, a Ph.D. with a language of his own when it comes to describing bovines. "As 3-dimensional as any calf out here. Just as pretty as you wanna draw one on the stop. A calf that's just got a lot of rib shape, certainly wide-square out of his hip. A calf that's balanced from forward to rear flank. Just super attractive," he raved.
And like prima donnas, they can be difficult. Pulling, stubborn, sometimes just running away. "He's kind of antsy right now, he's been out in the rain, he's nervous," said Burns. This is after all, a competition. There are ribbons to be won and prize money. "You think you wouldn't get that much money, but you sure do," said Hatley. Up to $2,500 and lessons about life that have no price. "These young people learn responsibility, care, choice," said Livestock president Randy Jordan.
Big lessons, big prizes, but you wouldn't expect anything less from a 1,200 pound dog that sometimes doubles as a horse. "Do you ever ride him just for the fun of it?," Keylan was asked. "Yes," he smiled.