Wrong-Way on a One-Way

My day started early today, at 4:39 AM, to be exact.

A group of us Animal Science kids and one poor grad student that had gotten roped into driving the van headed to Omaha this morning to help out with the AKSARBEN Livestock Judging contest. We made it to Omaha the same time the sun did, and about the same time all the streets got blocked off for some city-wide marathon that was going on. One poor grad student and a bunch of sleepy-eyed kids whipped a U-Turn at a roadblock (in front of a cop) and headed back up the one-way the wrong way, because the other option was getting back on the interstate and that would be pointless. Thankfully, it was seven-0’clock on a Sunday morning and no-one else was out and about. The one-way turned into a two-lane in a couple blocks, so life was fine.

I had a pretty good chuckle, because it reminded me of the time I had to face down some ‘gangsters’ in a bus stop with nothing but my witty tongue and an ice scraper.
In this particular instance, a mini-van load of teenagers in Amarillo, Texas on a Friday night had no business anywhere near a bus stop, but our friend was on the Greyhound coming from Oklahoma and we had offered to pick him up around 9 that night after our movie at the theater was over.

However, our driver thought it was great fun to make the three girls in the backseat scream every time he hit a bump; we all had to pee after those drinks at the theater. In all his gallivanting around he drove down two or three one-ways the wrong way and ended up attempting to off-road over a curb and blew the back right tire. I screamed rather loudly at that point – it was under my ass. Fortunately our co-pilot was a mechanic, so he fixed the tire while the three of us girls walked down to the bus stop to pee and to fetch our friend. The bus stop was scary. I tried to casually keep a firm grip on the ice scraper in my purse, but Accomplice #1 kept hissing, “Don’t make eye contact! Don’t make eye contact! You’re threatening them!” I was just surveying my surroundings…but she was right. Ducking through the five greasy, towering ‘gangsters’ by the entrance to the restrooms, we kicked a couple of roaches and prayed that a rat didn’t come through the giant hole by the sink. The toilet seats were absolutely disgusting, but I tried to ignore the lewd graffiti on the stall walls as I executed the “Pray and Hover” routine. We collected our Oklahoma traveler and hustled back to the stranded van, thankful that we didn’t get abducted or something. And I will always attribute that to the fact that I had that stupid little ice scraper in my purse.

Look out for #1, don’t step in #2

We made it to the arena, finally. I was given a lovely, neon hued, totally 80’s, traffic cone green shirt that said VOLUNTEER on the back of it. For a girl that usually wears softer colors, like blues and blacks and the occasional red or white, I felt ridiculously ostentatious. Fortunately I was not the only one wearing one. I was assigned a group of judgers and I was to follow and/or lead them around to each station, stir the animals as needed, and to pick up their judging cards.
Picking up judging cards is like dealing cards backwards. You have to pick them up and put them in a stack as fast as possible, and there’s about 50 kids per group.

“Stirring” (moving the animals so the judgers can see all sides of them and watch how they walk) the goats was my favorite part. They were fat and cute and they let you pet them.

There was one with a brown head that could imitate my little brother’s facial expression. Every time I coaxed him to move he just looked at me like I was a moron. It made me giggle every time. All those serious-faced kids in suits and boots probably thought I was a moron too. One of the market steers had such velvety looking hair that I just wanted to go hug him – he looked like a giant teddy bear!

The pigs were lazy, so I felt bad for smacking them really hard with my stirring stick. The second group of pigs that were judged had to be porkers from hell. The little brown spotted gilt thought she was a WMMA fighter, and kept picking on the other pigs. When pigs fight it’s not pretty. They squeal (and pigs are LOUD) and snort and growl and tromp all over everything. I was worried they’d hurt themselves, obviously, and I whopped them as hard as I could with my stick to get them to quit biting each other. I felt like an animal abuser as I tried to break up the fight, but pigs that big could do some serious damage if they got out of hand. I’ve been knocked down and tromped on relatively often, and I’m no stranger to poo, but I just kept thinking, “If these damn pigs run me over in front of all these prissy kids, I’m going to be pissed.” I finally got them apart; I chased the brown spotted gilt over in the corner and shook my stick at her. “You’re in time-out!” I told her. She grunted at me just like a little kid and stood quietly in her corner while I moved the other pigs around. She was mad at me for hitting her, and each time I came near her she’d let out a little squeal and move away. I didn’t have to prod her with my stick at all for a little while. Then she and the #2 gilt got into it again and I had to slap both of them really hard. Spotted gilt got another time-out and I smacked #2 for good measure. I was exhausted by the time the class was over. But, I didn’t get rolled in pig shit, and I didn’t get embarrassed in front of the self-important livestock judgers. I have bruises on my hands from that stupid stick though.

NOTES: I don’t think Livestock Judging kids are really that stuck-up, but it is absolutely forbidden to talk during the contest and it takes a lot of focus to judge properly. Friendliness isn’t exactly a requirement.
That stupid little ‘stirring stick’ was nothing more than a ½ inch piece of PVC pipe. It’s probably no wonder I couldn’t break up the fight. Ha!

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