Becky was laughing from Heaven Wednesday night.
Those damn sneakers finally did the trick.
You see, my sister — she was right, all those years that her words carried on without her.
Becky was right. It was the sneakers that doomed us.
It was the sneakers that doomed us those 34 years that the eight of us traversed through 4-H, sometimes reluctantly — often naively — showing sheep at the Greene County Fair.
(We were good at a lot of things.)
(Just not sheep.)
But a pair of sad, once-white, lace-up shoes finally pulled it off.
It didn’t happen in the sheep barn this time. It happened in unfamiliar territory — the hog barn.
I don’t think it was happenstance or beginner’s luck.
I don’t think it was the pro-level coaching, and I don’t think it was the tips I sneaked out of ‘pee-wee’ swine showmen interviews that morning.
I don’t think it was Buck — an award-winning, Hawkins-raised, 264-pound crossbred barrow, all pink with a pretty blue spot on his rump. I don’t think it was the audience, stacked with my family and friends and Gazette staff.
I don’t think it was the sheriff-judge’s fear of making a girl cry, or getting bad press, or any other oddly-claimed motives. I don’t think it was the weeks of anxiety fueled by visions of chasing a wild pig around a ring.
I don’t even think it was the year’s-worth of pressure exuded by my fellow reporters — who earned the champion title two years in a row — and in days leading up to the event would randomly burst, somewhat sternly, in the newsroom: “You’re GOING to win!”
And we all know it wasn’t natural talent that earned me a trophy at the end of the Celebrity Swine Showmanship Wednesday night at the Greene County Fair.
I think it was Becky. It was Becky who put a little magic in my white tennis-shoes.
Why, you say?
Just for the hell of it. To make her littlest sister-Goddaughter squirm a little bit. To remind reporter-me that she was right there with me all week, covering the fair once again for the Xenia Daily Gazette.
But Becky, I don’t want you to worry. I didn’t turn things around for us.
We’re all still Pseudo-Farmers, just as you wrote on this exact day — August 3 of 1993 — in a column draft. An unfinished column all about your little sister, Alice, and a pair of white sneakers.
There’s still a lot of life left in those words that your readers missed then. So I hope you don’t mind me sharing them today.
Twenty-two-year-old Becky DeWine, a Gazette reporter in her first summer after college, writes:
“The sneakers were what doomed us, I realize now.
And it was the white cushy shoes, my sister so naturally—so naively—put on her feet, that would prohibit her from coming away with the 4-H lamb grand championship.
It was a mere glance at my sister’s feet that cancelled out her confident, tough-girl attitude. She, after all, is a Pseudo-Farmer, just like her older siblings and me.
Pseudo-Farmers do not own boots and Pseudo-Farmers don’t go for the 4-H gold.
Pseudo-Farmers are the ones who raise lambs because their parents say they think it is ‘good for our character,’ the same thing they said about pulling weeds or practicing algebra.
Or maybe some Pseudo-Farmers decide to raise lambs because they think that it will be ‘fun,’ or that they are ‘cute,’ or maybe they … believe the saying ‘gentle as a lamb’ is actually based on some kind of truth …
Whatever our reasons for exploring the real farmer’s terrain, we are no competition. The division is obvious.”
The words Becky would use to finish that column — sprinkled with notes — is a forever mystery.
But although her words never met ink and newsprint, the tradition of her tennis-shoe-clad sibs raising sheep continued long after she left us.
And 26 years later, in just the right moment, it happened to spark an unprecedented win in a hog barn.
So to all the Pseudo-Farmers who bravely showed sheep or chickens or hogs this week: I see you.
And to Becky: Thanks for the magic you give me every day — even if it’s in a pair of white, cushy shoes.
Anna Bolton is a Xenia Daily Gazette staff reporter and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.