Heart and soul of the Western Stock Show
The National Western Stock Show in Denver finished with a flourish with a poultry show. Last week my neighbor made preparations to bring her three children, her father, a 4-H friend and an assortment of poultry to Denver to compete with the big boys.
Last year her daughter Sarah entered her champion Australorp chicken in the nation’s premier agricultural showcase and trade show. The dignified hen with shimmering black plumage had swept up laurels at the county and state fairs and specialty bird shows all summer long.
At the time, mother and daughter vowed to give up poultry shows after their season on the circuit. But it seems once was not enough.
Last week I asked Jennifer about her plans. “On Friday I load ducks, chickens and quail into the Suburban. I’ll be taking 13 fowl and six humans to Denver,” she laughed.
Exotic chicken varieties including a pint-size English bantam, a showy blue laced Wyandotte rooster, and Sarah’s extravagantly coiffed buff laced bearded Polish hen shared the back seat with a matched set of petite quails and four Rouen ducks.
With justification, the Colorado event calls itself the “Super Bowl of livestock shows.” This year it attracted more than 650,000 visitors during its 16-day run. An estimated $10 million changed hands in livestock deals.
There’s mutton-busting and rodeoing and country stars, but farm animals are the heart and soul of the stock show.
On Saturday, the winning steers strolled up a red carpet into the lobby of the posh Brown Palace Hotel, an upscale icon of Denver’s downtown for generations. The steers came for high tea, in keeping with a tradition started by the governor in 1945.
The cattle belong to the right tax bracket to fit in at the hotel. The grand champion, named Fu by his 12-year-old owner, weighed in just under 1,400 pounds. Fu sold for $117,000 at the auction.
Both steers hail from Texas, but they’re local food now.
After the auction and their downtown appearance, the next stop is the meatpacking plant.
Ed’s been running the numbers on our Colby Farm steers, Jem and Buttercup. I could hardly wait to tell him about Fu, not to mention the prize lamb that went for $50,000.
Our steers put on plenty of weight eating grass and range cake treats that Ed used to buy their loyalty and trust. They lived a charmed life among the apple trees until the day in December a trailer stopped by to take them to Rocky’s meat locker in Silt.
Rocky took care of the rest. The next time I saw those steers they hung from meat hooks in a 40-degree cooler to age and naturally tenderize for a week or so.
In the walk-in freezer, wooden cubbies with screened doors line the sides from floor to ceiling. In the center, wooden shelves hold baskets of elk and deer and beef packaged in white butcher paper. Rocky’s meat locker is colder and much larger than any freezer I’d ever been in.
It is nostalgic without pretension; I’m sure it looks just like it did when his father ran it before him.
Marilyn Gleason works at eating locally on her Peach Valley farm. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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