I hadn’t planned on going to the annual American Dairy Goat Association’s National Show this year—I went to Indianapolis last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didn’t take any goats this year but rode along with my friend, Coraleen Bunner. This year, the price of gas and other family obligations made the cost of a “vacation just for me” too expensive. One phone call changed all of that. Paul Hamby of Hamby Dairy Supply called and asked if I would like to help him work his booth—for pay! I jumped at the chance to go, and the adventure began.
Tana McCarter left flooded farm and family in southeast Kansas, by way of canoe, to embark on a trip to the 2007 ADGA National Dairy Goat Show in Gillette, Wyoming, during the month of July.
I made arrangements to hitch a ride with part of the Missouri gang. I only live about an hour west of the Missouri line in southeast Kansas and I know many of the breeders in that area. On Friday night, June 29th, my daughter, Salena, and a friend went to town to see a movie. Her friend’s family came over and we all went down to milk my goats. It began to rain. Then it began to rain very, very hard. It poured down for over two hours. We finally got tired of waiting in the milk room for it to quit and made a mad dash for the house. I was very alarmed at the amount of water standing everywhere in our yard. That was my first clue that we could be in trouble. I have a low water crossing on the driveway and I began to wonder if my daughter would be able to cross it to get home.
Frantically, we tried calling the girls’ cell phones with no luck because they had turned them off while in the theater. The other family decided to try heading home and the water came up into their truck as they drove across the driveway. By the time the movie was over, nearly eight inches of rain had fallen. Our girls just managed to get out of town before the Vertigris River flowed over the bridge. By Saturday morning, about 15 inches of rain had fallen. There is a second river involved in all of this—the Elk River, which curves around our farm. It overflowed its banks and surrounded our farm as well as closed the highway and stranded the small town of Elk City. It ended up taking my daughter nearly three days to get home from her trip to the movies. Thankfully she had friends to stay with on the other side of the rivers.
After the rain stopped, the rivers continued to rise as rainfall in other parts of the state flowed down to us. There was no way off of the farm for us. Everything on the farm was high and dry but we were stranded. Luckily, we are a four-canoe family and we always keep a stocked pantry. We never lost power or our good spirit of adventure. On Sunday morning, we did not need to hear the news to know that the nearby town of Coffeyville was in trouble. We live about 35 miles northwest of Coffeyville but we could smell the refinery even at that distance. Oil, along with water, was flowing through that town.
This metal cutout sign for Old English Saanens also caught McCarter’s eye at the National Dairy Goat Show.
When Salena did manage to get across the river, she could only get part way down the road. We paddled out in the canoes to get her. All highways were under water or closed. We only had one vehicle on dry ground and the water level was not dropping. I wasn’t sure that I was going to get to make my trip to the national dairy goat show after all. I told the Missouri gang that they would have to leave without me. I called Coraleen and made arrangements to travel with her if I could find a road west that was open. She wasn’t heading out until Saturday and I hoped that would give the water enough time to drop. I did not like the idea of taking the truck and leaving my family stranded, but meanwhile Laura Simpson, Skiatook, Oklahoma, called and asked if she could tag along. Coraleen said that she had plenty of room in her truck so I told Laura to meet me at the mailbox at noon on Friday. The water had dropped enough to get that far down the driveway but we still had to paddle the canoes across. My husband was making arrangements to try to get a temporary road built across a wheat field on a terrace. With four-wheel drive, my family would be able to get out if they needed to. I felt better about leaving them.
When Laura arrived at the end of the drive, we picked her up in the canoe and paddled back to the truck so that I could finish last minute chores on the farm before leaving. I laughingly told her that she and I would have an adventure in Wyoming. She promptly told me that adventure had already started because she had never been in a boat!
We made a mad dash west to Coraleen’s farm near Hays, Kansas. After a little sleep, we loaded goats and headed for Wyoming at 4:15 a.m. As soon as it was daylight, we began counting windmills. When we pulled in to the Cam-Plex Center in Gillette at 4:30 p.m., we had counted 220 windmills—and we were so happy to be out of the truck. Laura and I left Coraleen to sort through some problems at the vet check that had to do with some kind of a statement about Scrapies that her vet had not included on the health papers. Apparently, there was a long line of people who did not realize that they needed this. It was 105°F and I don’t care how dry the climate is, that is pretty darn hot. I began helping unload the supplies and set up Hamby Dairy Supply booth. Laura went back to help Coraleen and set up our camp. By the time we were finished, it had been a very full day. That evening, it poured down rain and blew like a tropical storm. The folks from Missouri said that it was my fault and I must have brought the bad weather with me.
On Sunday, the show started with the youth activities but we were too busy to really go over and see what was happening in the ring. We had a steady stream of people coming through the booth to pick up things that they had forgotten or make arrangements for things they wanted to take home with them. The best part of the National Show for me is the people. I have never missed an opportunity for conversation in my life. I love to talk to people. It never ceases to amaze me at the stories people have just waiting to come out. I had pictures of our farm and the flood that I couldn’t wait to show off—and I did—to anybody who slowed down for very long!
Breeder signs were plentiful at the Gillette, Wyoming 2007 ADGA National Show, and a pleasure to view for spectators like Tana McCarter, Kansas, who thought this one from Elkhorn Farm, California, a nice example of positive dairy goat promotion.
I learned so much at the National Show. Goat people are so very talented. Everybody has a different way of doing things. If they can’t find something that works, they will make it or adapt something else to do the job. When I rambled through the barns, I always enjoy looking at the different signs and where everyone is from. Some signs are wooden and painstakingly hand painted. Others are professionally painted, and vinyl banners were popular. Some signs were made from iron as silhouettes and some even had stained glass pictures. There were hayracks and feeders of every size, shape, and kind imaginable. Everybody had a different idea of how show goats should be clipped, washed, groomed and made absolutely perfect. I won’t even begin to describe the different feed concoctions used by goat entrepreneurs. I was feeling pretty smug that I hadn’t brought a single animal and could just enjoy the week. That was before a group in our barn decided to spend most of the night clipping their goats. I had forgotten about that part of a goat show! On a national level, there are just many more clippers buzzing into the night.
Time passed very quickly for me at the National Dairy Goat Show. I worked very hard and talked and visited just as hard at the booth all day. I was able to slip off and watch my friends show their goats and even watch part of the show. I stayed up way past midnight for the Oberhasli show and did not regret it a bit the next day. The animals were all so beautiful. I greatly admired the dedication of people willing to do what it takes to compete on a national level. I realized long ago, that I am not one of them. Going to the nationals helps me keep things in perspective. I am not doing this for the ribbons or the recognition, even though both of those are really nice and great for the ego. I love the animals and the people who also love them. I get to take a first-hand look at certain animals and herds at their very best and that helps make breeding decisions for my herd. Of course I have found that some lines just will not work on my own tough little farm in Kansas, but I can dream.
I ended up spending way more money than I made working for Paul Hamby, but the whole experience was worth every penny and every minute. I was exhausted and slept most of the way home and a lot of the next few days. But guess what, my friends and I are already making plans for Louisville, Kentucky, site of the 2008 American Dairy Goat Association’s National Dairy Goat Show. We wouldn’t miss it for the world. Hope to see you there!