KNOXVILLE — An antsy steer added a little rope burn to the pain that Lauren Phillips felt during the county fair livestock sale.
Two days earlier, she left the ring with a trophy and a smile. Her steer, Mr. Phillips, won Reserve Champion Shorthorn Plus Steer in the beef show. The honor is quite a mouthful. On Thursday, Mr. Phillips began the path to becoming one himself, as his 11-year-old handler was well aware.
She tried to hold back her emotions, but she couldn’t keep hold of the steer, which broke away for one last romp around the ring.
“It makes me happy when I show them,” Phillips said of her steer and her sheep, Billy.
“I’m really proud of what I do. It’s just awesome to have the opportunity to show.
“But when you see them go, yeah, when I was walking them out today, I was crying. It was really sad.”
The 4-H’er began caring for Mr. Phillips in November and Billy in March. Months of feeding, care and grooming peak at the fair. Then the same sawdust that hosts livestock shows becomes the site of the sale. It soaks up the tears of some exhibitors, including a few of Phillips’.
“It was rough,” she said. “It’s really hard to sell an animal when you get attached to it. But overall, you know you’re gonna help other people (by feeding them). It’s just the right thing to do.”
Phillips said she plans to raise more animals and show them next year. No matter what prizes they win or what prices they bring, saying goodbye probably won’t get any easier, she said.
“Just be prepared that you’re gonna be sad when it’s over,” she said. “They’re kind of like your best buds.”