Let's go ahead and get this out of the way right now - I am not an agriculturally competent person.
Up until a few years ago, I did not know what grain sorghum was, nor how in God's green earth farmers made those giant blocks of cotton my cousins and I used to play hide and seek around as children.
And when I arrived at the Record Star in 2006, I am not ashamed to admit I did not know the difference between a heifer and a steer. I will pause so that those familiar with cattle can laugh at such a blatantly absent-minded statement.
Of course, now I am aware that there are different classifications of steer and heifers, such as carcass and breeding, respectively. I also know that a steer is a male and a heifer is a female. I will never forget the look of humorous shock on my old general manager's face when I asked him if there was a difference.
I attended this year's livestock show more than I did last year, primarily because I was hoping to see for myself just what it is that makes the livestock show one of the biggest regional events of the year.
Five minutes into my tour of the exhibition hall where the swine were being held, I was trying to take a photo of a flesh-colored, tantrum-throwing beast that happened to be running right at me and away from its owner. I think people cannot truly appreciate just how powerful these creatures are until they feel it slam itself into the back of their legs.
Looking around, I noticed that I seemed to be the only one fearful of the giant swine squealing its way into its pen. A firm slap on the back from its owner seemed to let it know that he, not it, was in charge.
After I regained my composure (careful to hide my fear), I decided to walk around and look at the rest of the animals. I saw kids laughing and shrieking in delight at the rabbits in their cages. Some shied away when an exhibitor offered to let them hold a rabbit, others ran right at the chance.
Looking at a kid probably about five feet tall pulling a heifer who weighed as much as a small car by the neck with a rope is what ultimately made me realize the magnitude and purpose of the event. The teen took the heifer to a wash area to hose her down and get her clean water, then led her back to the stall where she had been tied.
People, myself included until last week, do not seem to realize just how much work is required to raise an animal for the livestock show. Whether it be a broiler or a steer, it is a commitment on the part of the young man or woman to be responsible for another living thing. Not just that, it can lead many to achieve their goal of obtaining a college education.
So while I may not consider myself to be an agriculturally competent individual, I completely and fully offer my respect to the young men and women who participated in this year's livestock show. The commitment and character that was on display is something many of us would do well to learn from - I know I did.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.