By Mary Wilson
There’s nothing like the duckling swim and slide pool at the Farm Show to make you ponder youth and inexperience. Kids swarm the pool to watch baby ducks clamber up an incline, strain their necks for a nibble of food just beyond their reach at the top of the slope, and then tip over and fall down the other side, back into the water below.
Standing next to the duckling pool and in the very large bird room is Greg Martin, a Penn State extension poultry specialist.
"Most of these birds are what we call precocial birds, so as soon as they hatch, they are ready to go, ready to eat, ready to grow,” said Martin. “So these birds were selected years ago for their precocial nature, so
they do investigate and they do try things.”
The Farm Show is the perfect place to study precocious people, too – kids who seem like they’ve been moving livestock around as soon as they could walk.
Jon Kubala, a 21-year-old from Adams County, sits cooly on the hindquarters of a huge Texas longhorn steer.
"It only looks dangerous," he said. "They’re very docile animals. They’re really easy to get along with, and easy going and just gentle giants."
Kubala started raising this steer when he was fifteen. Blue Ridge Buckshot – Buck for short – has been grand champion four years in a row.
"My little brother helps. He’s just starting to get into it a little bit now, too. So he’s 16 years old and been getting into it for a little bit,” Martin said. “My dad’s actually a veterinarian out in Littlestown. So we’ve grown up rescuing horses and pretty much everything you can think of we’ve had going through our house”.
It’s not a total guys club here in the bovine room. Eighteen-year-old Lindsey Zeigler of Adams County will be at the Farm Show all week – she’s showing a lamb, a pig, and a deep brown Hereford heifer.
"Her name is Little Miss Karma," said as she brandished her animal.
Zeigler, with her heavy-duty overalls and braided hair, is an uncommon sight – she’s a she.
"Yeah, I’m kind of rare. We grew up on farm life since I was little, and it just always interested me, so yeah," said Zeigler.
Elsewhere, boys who come up to my waist are inspecting cow hoofs and leading animals through the thick crowd.
But some things come naturally only to an experienced hand. For instance -- the stance of a farmer at rest is a tricky thing. One wants to appear wise, able, and alert.
Bearded cattleman Edwin McCabe of Beaver County has it down, after raising cows for 35 years. But the two young men to his right are newer to the game, and absorbed in their smartphones. I ask McCabe if he thinks the phones make for lazy farmers.
"Well look at these two," said McCabe.
Twenty one-year-old Brett Torres, of Beaver County, leaps to his own defense.
He points to the cows he’s watching.
"They’re laying down, so it’s not as if there’s much to do with these animals,” Torres said. “We’ve already done what we had to do in the morning, and now they’re being lazy so we can be lazy.”
Cody Downs doesn’t have time to be lazy. The Mercer County 17-year-old is grooming someone else’s heifer to make a little extra money before he leaves Farm Show. He’s already shown his animal.
"Well, I got first in the junior show yesterday but we made it to the division and didn’t do too good. He just didn’t like the way the
heifer looked, just too dirty-fronted, had a little too fat for him," said Downs.
Downs seems disappointed, but not bitter. He says there are no hard feelings in this – and there’s always next year.