LOOKING BACK: Steer show celebrates 75 years in Pike County

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2017

On a rather warm spring Saturday in March 1942, several young boys waited anxiously to hear the judges’ decision as to which of them would be the winner of the first ever Pike County 4-H Steer Show.

The steers being judged were tied to the mimosa trees on the north side of the square in downtown Troy. The boys moved alternately from the warmth of the sun to the coolness of the mimosas. The crowd that gathered for the steer show was small but supportive.

Robert Drinkard of Springhill was one of the older and more experienced 4-H’ers.

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“I had fed out a hog and kept records on that but the steer show was just getting started and I wanted to get in on that,” Drinkard said. “We didn’t show heifers, only steers.”

Drinkard said all of the steers in the show were Herefords, red with white faces, except one black steer – an Angus. There weren’t many of them around at that time. Black Angus were new to us.”

And, the Black Angus was awarded the blue ribbon. Not because it was different or new.

“It was the best steer,” Drinkard said. “Oree Grimes got first place; Charles White got second place; I got third and Frank McClure got fourth. I learned to keep good record, got to be in the first steer show and got made a little money.”

Actually, for the time, Drinkard’s $25 prize money was more than a little money.

“Mr. Cowart Sanders bought a few steers for the 4-H’ers that wanted to be in the show but my steer came out of our pasture. I fed my steer mainly on Daddy’s corn so feeding him didn’t cost me a lot of money. I worked with him every day to be ready for the showmanship event. I brushed him every day for three months before the show. I even broke him and would ride him out in the fields and in the pasture.”

Along with the other 4-H’ers who participated in the steer show, Drinkard had an opportunity to go to Montgomery to see the their steers sold at auction. He even got to spend the night in the Whitley Hotel in Montgomery – a big treat for a young boy from Springhill.

Bill Hixon of Banks also showed at Pike County’s first 4-H Steer Show.

“I was the youngest one in the steer show,” Hixon said. “I was 10 years old and I was scared to death. But one of the older boys, about 15, took me under his wing. I just remember tying my steer to one of those mimosa trees and waiting for it to be judged.”

Hixon said his family had been in the cattle business all of his young life and that’s what leaned  him in the way of the 4-H Steer Show.

“That was just something I wanted to do but once I got up to that big square, I was shy or scared or both,” he said, laughing.

Hixon said the 4-H steer program was a good learning experience for many young people.

“Some of the men in the community would get together and buy, 10 or 12 calves and put them out in the pasture and let some of the farm children pick out a steer to raise and show.”

Hixon said the support of the community and the interest shown in the steer program helped to spur the cattle industry in Pike County.

The 4-H Steer, and now heifer, program is  an opportunity for young people to learn tabout responsibility and time and money management skills as well as about the care of animals. And, it’s a program in which the whole family can be involved.

“In our family, we have three generations that have participated in the Pike County 4-H Steer and Heifer Shows,” Hixon said. “The first show was held on the square in Troy.  Later shows were held at the Shaver & Black Auction Barn and the Pike County Fairgrounds.”

The annual Pike County 4-H Steer and Heifer Shows are now held at the Pike County Cattlemen Park Arena.

Hixon attends Cattlemen Association meetings around the state and other Cattlemen can’t believe the Pike County facility.

“People are amazed at what we have and want to know how we did it and I say it took a lot of people believing and working hard,” he said.

The 75th Anniversary celebration of the Pike County 4-H Steer Show will be Saturday, March 11 at Cattleman Park.  The pre-show meal will be at 4:30 p.m. followed by the steer and heifer show.

Heath Wesley, Pike County Extension coordinator, said in order to look back 75 years, the Extension office is asking anyone with photographs, especially from the early years, to allow them to be included in a slide presentation that will be shown during the celebration meal prior to the 2017 Pike County 4-H Steer and Heifer Show. Photographs can be scanned at the Extension office and returned immediately. Call the office at 566-0985 for more information or directions on how best to share photographs..