Farm livin’ is the life for former Silt Mesa family
SILT MESA – Two years ago, the Pattons were city slickers living in the San Diego area.Now the family resides on a 9-acre farm north of Silt, raising chickens, horses, goats, sheep and steer.One steer in particular is important to 13-year-old Caity Patton. It’s a 17-month-old Red Angus she named Norman – just like the one in the 1991 hit movie “City Slickers.”
Caity, a student at Riverside Middle School in New Castle, won the animal in the Catch-A-Calf contest in the Junior Livestock show held during the National Stock Show in Denver last January.”It was the first time I’d done a steer,” she said. “I’ve been in 4-H for two years, and last year I did a lamb.”She picked up the 755-pound Norman in May and has been raising him on the family farm. He now weighs 1,239 pounds.”He’s always been my teddy bear,” Caity says with a smile as she brushes his brown coat and he stares at her with his big brown eyes. “Sometimes I’ll go out in the field and just lay with him and he’ll lick me.”But she plans to show him at the stock show this coming January, where he will be auctioned off at market price.”It’s going to be hard to give him up,” Caity admitted.Nevertheless, she’s enjoying being around the different animals on the farm and the country lifestyle. “I lived in the same house all my life in San Diego,” Caity said with a smile. “But I’ve always had an interest in farms.”Her father, Wade Patton, grew up in Basalt and said he moved the family because he wanted to get back to Colorado.
“I thought I wanted to get out of this valley,” he said. “But after I did, I wanted to come back.”And even though he grew up in the valley, he wasn’t the country boy that he is today.”This is all new to us,” he said with a shrug, and smiled. “We thought it would be an adventure.”The Pattons had a rabbit, a cat and two dogs when they were in San Diego. They brought their pets with them, but when they purchased their home near Silt, it came with a goat named “Carl.””We bought a goat and the house came with it,” Caity said with a laugh.Wade’s wife, Cheryl, who had not lived in Colorado before, hinted that she wasn’t really sure about farm life at first. But now she really likes it.”It’s a blast,” she said. “It beats TV. And I love watching my daughter – 4-H has been wonderful for her. She used to be very shy and quiet. She takes care of all the animals, feeding them and riding her horse. This has been a great experience for her.”The Catch-A-Calf contest was started in 1935 with 10 calves and quickly caught on, growing to 52 calves by 1942. After World War II, the program settled at 40 calves per year, according to the National Western Stock Show.
In the program, successful catchers feed their calf and return the animal one year later as a market steer. The market animals are then judged by pounds gained, improvement in quality, carcass quality and the member’s record book.The contestants also keep in touch with their sponsors in the program. Caity’s sponsor is Bruce Smart with the Colorado Elks Foundation.”She meets with her sponsor and writes a letter to him every month to tell how (Norman) is doing,” Cheryl said.Although the kids in the Catch-A-Calf program are from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming, Caity was one of the only ones from the Western Slope. She says she would like to see more kids from this area get involved in the program.”If you want to learn, this is a great program to find out what your talents are,” Caity said. “And there are all sorts of programs.”Participants in the program are eligible for a college scholarship through the National Stock Show. Also, 10 percent of the sale of the animal goes back to the program and 90 percent to the kid who raised it.Caity hopes to become a horse trainer some day and would like to attend the equestrian program at Indiana State University.And she reminds potential contestants that even if they don’t catch a calf on the first try, they’re always welcome to come back again.Those wishing to learn more about 4-H and the Catch-A-Calf program are encouraged to call Michele Pike at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Rifle at 625-3969.
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