The fact that the weather was about as nice as you could ask for on an early August afternoon certainly didn’t hurt, but I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on my first Texas County Fair junior livestock sale last Saturday.

Perhaps more than your average journalism-type, I enjoy being around animals. Big or small, furry or smooth, pretty or pungent – I like almost all of them. So when I have a work assignment that entails taking photographs of dozens to even hundreds of animals, I’m OK with it, to say the least.

Add to that the atmosphere of being in the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds livestock showing arena, surrounded by a large, attentive and appreciative crowd, with the sound of auctioneers’ calls blaring over the public address system, and you have the makings of what I’d call a pretty dang good time.

As anyone who has witnessed it can attest, the fair’s junior livestock sale is such a cool deal on so many levels.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

There’s the camaraderie of the participants and volunteers representing the Texas County Fair Board. There’s the connection between the young sellers and the usually older buyers. There’s the excitement of the bidding wars that pop up now and then.

And of course, there’s a virtual goldmine of cuteness, with so many little kids experiencing some of the biggest moments of their lives, parading their fine looking animals that have obviously been diligently tended to and even pampered prior to their day in the ring. At times, the cuteness meter hits its highest point and stays there. I mean, where else are you going to see a young boy leading a sheep around, both packing peal-handled pistols (plastic ones, mind you), or a sow and the young lady directing it both wearing tu-tus?

Some of the sellers show some big-time resolve and determination, too, and there are even lessons to be learned in watching them while they’re in the ring. I mean, where else are you going to see a 1000-pound steer act up, and a boy at the end of its rope who can’t weigh more than 70 pounds start smacking it around and manhandling it until it submits and calms down?

The show also features plenty of wow moments, like when a kid tries to ride a pig into the arena, or a frisky sheep leaps up and almost knocks down its 12-year-old handler. And there are even touching scenes, when an animal is donated back by a buyer and resold multiple times (sometimes to the benefit of a needy family or individual).

It’s enough to make even the most even-keeled or cold-hearted individual laugh out loud or shed a tear (which, it should be noted, both happened last Saturday).

Much of the credit for the success of the junior livestock sale – and all of the fair’s other livestock related activities – has to go to the fair board, whose members do so much behind the scenes work to make three or four days in August so special.

Thanks to their efforts, the fairgrounds’ livestock facilities are really top-notch at this point. The hog pens are made of stout metal instead of rickety two-by-fours, the whole area is fenced in to prevent jailbreaks by intrepid steers and other animals (thanks to donations made by businesses and individuals), the poultry and rabbit barn is a solid, fully enclosed space equipped with a nice new wooden judging table, and the sound system is more than adequate (as is pretty much every other aspect of the whole place).

I won’t mention any names (they know who they are), but the board leaders have in the past few years made a real habit out of improving the facilities. The changes made during that time are obvious, and it should be interesting to see what they do next.

As a casual observer, I’d say that even if no improvements were made for a while, the whole event would still be great. But I’m guessing that’s not going to be the case, and we’ll something new and different (and better) next year.

And when I say “we,” I mean just that, because Lord willing, I’ll be there. I plan to be a regular at the event from here on out – regardless of the weather.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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