Farm animals, 'born to die,' sold at fair

September 01, 1995|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Tears slid down Amanda Frey's cheeks as she stood beside the sheep pens preparing to say goodbye to her lamb, J. C.

The 15-year-old Williamsport 4-H member has shown sheep since she was a toddler and said many farewells over the years, but that didn't make the pending sale of her lamb at the State Fair on Wednesday night any easier.

"I get attached to my lambs," Amanda said sadly.

The fair's annual 4-H/FFA (Future Farmers of America) livestock sale brings an emotional conclusion to months of work. The youngsters have tended to the animals, rising early to feed them before school and cleaning stalls at night. They have exercised, groomed and trained them.

When the auction night finally arrives, there are smiles of relief and tears of sadness.

While Amanda stood waiting to sell her 115-pound lamb, she held his head and tried to keep him calm. "I hope I can get through this without crying," she said.

But when the time came, she led J. C. into the auction ring, posed him before the buyers, and stood dry-eyed under the harsh fluorescent lights while the auctioneer sang out the prices.

Within a few minutes, her lamb was sold, bringing $1.60 a pound.

After a quick picture with the fair queen nearby, Amanda led her lamb out of the ring, put him in a pen with other lambs awaiting their fate, and walked away with out looking back.

"You never get used to it," said Jennifer Wildesen, 17, of Uniontown, who sold a lamb, a pig and a steer at the auction.

"I like them all. They each have a different personality."

Jennifer said she tells herself that the animals she raises and sells are not pets, but projects to help earn money for college. Still, the Francis Scott Key High School senior can recall the names of nearly every animal she has sold.

"There's nothing I can do but bring a box of Kleenex," she said.

This year, she said, she found it especially hard to sell her prized pig, Ethel. Jennifer had intended to take Ethel home for breeding but Ethel won first place.

Unlike E. B. White's fictional pig, Wilbur, who was spared from slaughter through the web-writings of a spider named Charlotte, Ethel had no such salvation.

Fair rules dictate that the champion pig be sold, so Wednesday night, Jennifer drove Ethel into the sawdust-covered ring.

Although some 4-H'ers (the name is derived from Head, Hands, Heart and Health) mourn their animals, most take the auction in stride. For example, Amanda's sister, Melissa, 12, and brother, Justin, 10, said the sale didn't bother them. "I know from the beginning they'll be sold," Melissa said.

"You try not to think about it," said Alissa Jones, a Carroll County high school senior who has shown lambs for six years.

But this year, Alissa conceded it was a more difficult than usual because she developed a fondness for her lamb, Plato. "Usually lambs are stupid and you hate them," she said. "But he was smart."

Still, Alissa said, she wouldn't consider not raising and selling sheep. "I love lamb. I like to eat meat."

Josh Ruby, 11, of Frederick County, who sold the reserve champion hog and left the ring smiling, wasn't sad either. "I tell myself that's what they're put on earth for."

Sharpsburg's Jesse Rohrer, 13, who sold his reserve champion Hampshire sheep, put it even more bluntly: "They're born to die."

Perhaps one reason the auction prompts far more smiles than tears is that the youngsters can look forward to anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars in proceeds from the sale. Most said they would use their money to buy more animals or to save for college. A few had other ideas.

"I might buy a four-wheeler," said Ryan Scholtzhauer, 9, of Queen Anne's County, who sold a steer and a hog and left grinning.

"I feel happy because my steer and hog brought a lot," he said.

Derek Wagner, a Carroll County 9-year-old who sold his unnamed hog, said he would put his money into his bank account. As he stood watching the hog root an empty pan, he said the loss of one pig wasn't anything to cry about.

"I've got 37 other hogs back on the farm," he said.

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