At county fairs, show animals are judged by their physical features. However, non-physical features do not go unnoticed. This year, two rescued lambs are being shown at the Delaware County Fair by their caretakers, Maxwell and Benjamin Hughes, members of Porkies Plus 4-H Club.
Sheep Barn Superintendents Pam and Greg Graupman recognized the unique situation.
“We’ve been working in the sheep barn at the fair for over 20 years,” said Greg Graupman. “This is our first experience with kids showing rescue lambs.”
Before the sheep judging began, a time for recognition was made. Greg Graupman voiced over the microphone: “We all know the lambs with the best physique will win Grand Champion trophies, therefore Maxwell and Benjamin’s lambs will probably not win a trophy. However, these young men are grand champions who put compassion before competition.”
A sizeable crowd applauded as the Hughes boys led their lambs into the show ring.
Maxwell, 14, and Benjamin, 8, live with their parents in East Meredith on Diamond H Farm. The family raises beef, but last winter, Maxwell and Benjamin decided they wanted to show sheep at the fair.
“It’s the first time anyone in the family has shown sheep,” said their mother, Jamie. “So, I looked on Craigslist and found a farm selling baby lambs. We drove to the sheep farm but were taken aback.”
There were almost 50 lambs from which to choose. But, instead of choosing prime lambs, the boys were drawn to two neglected lambs. One had frostbite on an ear, and the other had a burned side because it got too close to a heat lamp.
“It was horrible,” said Jamie. “I reminded the boys that the imperfections would work against them when showing at the fair. They understood the facts and bought the lambs, anyway. They paid with their own money.”
The lambs needed immediate attention.
“The lambs came home that afternoon, in the back of the car,” said Maxwell.
The boys began bottle-feeding the lambs. Maxwell named his sheep Josephina, and Benjamin named his Kate.
During the months before the fair, Kate’s frostbitten ear was trimmed off, and the raw edge healed. Nice white wool grew over Josephina’s burned side.
“We love watching the boys take care of the animals,” said their father, Phillip. “The lambs even got so they knew when the boys were coming home from school.”
“The lambs ate the mail, too,” said Jamie.