Growing up with sheep, my wife developed an early affinity for the Guys and Gals Sheep Sheep Lead competition where the contestant dresses up in wool (often on very warm summer days) during the county fair, leads the sheep around the ring and models the garments. In my estimation, this is nothing short of bizarre. To make matters worse, this has been a particular source of controversy in our marriage due to the fact that the spectacular action of the not-to-be-missed combine demolition derby at the county fair typically coincides with the event.
This all changed, however, with my daughter’s third birthday last year, making her eligible for the Guys and Gals Lead. Since then I have found that any time you combine three-year-olds, livestock and wool apparel, there is potential for great adventure. Last year, in Campbell’s first sheep lead experience at the Fairfield County Fair (during the not-to-be-missed combine derby), things were going very well until the sheep behind Campbell got loose and ran into the backside of her sheep. In response to the unexpected sheep nose from behind, Campbell’s sheep bolted, leaving two sheep running loose in a show ring filled with three-year-old girls in fine wool clothing.
Sawdust flew and the crowed “ooohed” and “ahhhed” at the several diving attempts to capture the sheep clad in glitter spray and ribbons carefully coordinated with their leader’s wool outfits. As our sheep rounded the corner, I took my turn diving (camera in hand) to catch the rampant ewe only to get a fistful of wool and a face full of sawdust. The crowd responded with a raucous, “Whooooaa!”
From there our sheep took off down the side of the ring, capsizing a four-year-old contestant waiting in the wings, coating her outfit in a sheen of sawdust and sheep pellets. Another fine gentleman jumped out to slow the charging ewe only to get the business end of a Horned Dorset right in his business. He crumpled, doubled-over in agony as the crowd let out another mortified (but very entertained) gasp.
By this time, the first ewe had been detained, but ours was rounding the corner to incite another swath of destruction though the lineup of little girls cowering against the back wall of the arena, shielded by panicked mothers scrambling to prevent even the slightest rumple in their contestants’ carefully pressed outfits. Just then my father-in-law leapt from the throng of screaming pre-teens with a heroic halter snag, preventing our sheep from wiping out the majority of the eight-year-old girls class. The crowd responded with a roar. He handed off the sheep to my daughter, who expertly maintained control for the remainder of the class and ended up winning. For the first time in history, the sheep lead excitement in the show barn rivaled that of the roaring combine derby outside.
Campbell competed in the Ohio State Fair Guys and Gals Sheep Lead this past weekend and, as is often the case for the event, the temperatures were sweltering. The thermometer hovered above 90 degrees for most of the afternoon. The saving grace for this, and other events in the Brown Sheep Building, are the massive fans that keep things fairly pleasant despite the baking sun outside. It was still plenty warm for wearing a wool coat, but Campbell successfully held onto her sheep and did a fantastic job.
While I still am still not convinced that wearing a wool coat on a 90-degree day is a good idea for a three-year-old holding onto a sheep, I am one proud papa that has found a new not-to-be-missed event.