Kelly Linzer, 18, on Painted Charity at his home in Bertram. Linzer is a longtime member of the Burnet County 4-H, serving at every level of office at one time or another, and a senior at Liberty Hill High School, where he's on the rodeo team. He is a regular at the Burnet County Livestock Show, where he has won ribbons, belt buckles, and other swag for his chickens and pigs. He and Painted Charity also have multiple awards in reining competitions in Burnet County and across the United States. Staff photo by Creative Director David Bean
Some of the students showing their animals at the Burnet County Livestock Show on Jan. 6-8 are just starting out. For others, the show is a natural offshoot of their family ranching business. Then, you have everyone in between from city kids to country. What ties them together is their love of working with animals and their passion for showing them off at the Burnet County Fairgrounds and beyond every winter and spring.
“These students spend countless hours training their animals,” said Burnet High School ag teacher Kari Beth Langbein. “It’s not common sense to raise show animals and take care of them the way they are supposed to be.”
This is the first year for 14-year-old Cora Everett to participate in the county livestock show. As a member of 4-H, she is raising two pigs in the Burnet High School show barn, which means arriving at the barn by 5:45 a.m. to clean, feed, and train before going to classes all day. She and the other 4-H members with pigs in the show barn return after school and often work with their animals until about 8 p.m. The largest youth development organization in the United States, 4-H has nearly 6 million members, 181 in Burnet County.
“It can be as late as 9 p.m.,” Everett said. “I have to bathe them, condition their skin, feed them, and take them on long walks. You don’t use a harness. They are loose. You have to train them to walk with you.”
To steer the animals, Everett uses a whip that is more like a soft stick with a curl on the tip. She gently taps Rosy, her Durrock, and Lola, her York, on each side of their faces to guide them and teach them to keep their heads up. Each pig is walked 30 minutes a day.
In her first year, Everett, who lives in Burnet, is already making the grade (although 4-H members are not actually graded on their work.)
“For first-timers, it’s not normal for them to be called out for being of the top four or five, but Cora has already done that several times this year,” Langbein said. “That’s something to be commended for. She’s done a great job.”
Also new to the game are 9-year-old twins Claire and Jake Deutsch, third-graders at Bertram Elementary School.They are raising twin Boer goats, Peanut and Tiger, on their land near Oatmeal. Their decision on which animals to raise was made from the back seat of their family car.
“We saw these baby goats on the road and they were so cute!” Claire said. “Mom told us she showed goats when she was in high school, and so we wanted to do it, too.”
“We are just dabbling in it right now to see if they are responsible and dedicated enough to do this,” mom Carol Deutsch said. “So far, they are up to the task.”
Chores are split between the two. Jake feeds in the morning, Claire at night. They work on walking and show stances in the afternoon and on weekends. Jake participated in the Burnet FFA and 4-H Jackpot Show in October, where he received grand reserve (second place) with Tiger. Jackpots are practice shows to get newcomers used to the judging and handling. Claire had a volleyball tournament, so she didn’t show.
“The judges feel the muscles on their back,” Jake said. “They ask you a few questions, like what type of goat it is.”
For Claire and Jake, their animal husbandry began in August and will end Jan. 16 at the Hill District Grandstand Show in Llano, the next and last show they plan to attend this year. The 2022 grandstand is Jan. 15-22 at various locations in four counties, including Llano. The Market Goat Show will be at 8 a.m. Jan. 16 at the John L. Kuykendall Arena and Event Center, 2200 RR 152 in Llano.
The show season ends in March for siblings McKenzie and Cooper Evans and their cousin Hannah Brooks, but the work continues all year. They raise sheep, goats, and heifers on the Evans family ranch on U.S. 281 north of Burnet, where their parents and grandparents run Evans Livestock.
“They see it literally from conception to the stock show,” said Brandon Evans, McKenzie and Cooper’s father and Hannah’s uncle. “We run 600 does that produce offspring that we sell all over the United States. We keep some for the kids to show.”
While McKenzie and Cooper have a variety of goats and sheep they plan to show, Hannah concentrates her efforts on this year’s heifer, Ava. She had the grand champion heifer at the junior show last year and was reserve the year before that. She also shows goats, which have won both grand and reserve as well.
The three young 4-H members all have grand champion belt buckles and ribbons for a variety of animals from a variety of shows. After the county show in January, they will move on to bigger events in Houston, Fort Worth, and Kentucky. All have placed well, including championships at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. The NAILE is the largest all-breed purebred livestock event in the world. It includes 10 divisions and nearly 30,000 entries from 48 states.
“I never take my NAILE buckle off,” said 15-year-old McKenzie, who went on to recount her “show ‘fit” (outfit worn at shows). “I always have my Dudes (Hey, Dudes, a brand of shoes) because they are comfy and my Lucky Bucky socks (also a brand). I wear a black show shirt, and my hair is always in a messy bun.”
Cooper, 12, also tends toward black when it comes to show ‘fits.
“I put on my black shirt and jeans and a belt, comb my hair to the side, and put on my Champion socks,” he said. (By Champion, he means brand, not award-winning, although you could say that, too.)
Hannah, 13, wears Hey, Dudes as well “and any pair of socks,” her show jeans, and her most recent grand champion buckle, which means she changes buckles a lot.
The family loads up the livestock and travels from show to show from January through March, continuing animal care on the road. After a summer and fall of walking their animals forward and backward on treadmills and in circles on horse wheels, grooming and cleaning their coats and feet, the two families are ready for show season.
“I’ve grown up around it,” McKenzie said. “It’s that thing that feels most me. I like working with animals and watching them grow up from day one to showing them out and seeing what they can do at the spring shows and all the majors.”
Kelly Linzer, 18, moved from the North Austin suburbs to a ranch outside of Bertram when he was 10 years old. For the past eight years, he has been raising chickens, pigs, and horses. He rides the horses in reining competitions. He and Charity Paint, his champion paint horse, will be competing again this year in the Burnet County Livestock Show. Trophies, belt buckles, and other champion swag decorate several rooms in his home, taking over bookshelves and whole walls.
Linzer is the current Bertram 4-H Club delegate and last year’s president. He has held all positions in 4-H at the county and club level over the past several years. He has four buckles from the Marble Falls and junior rodeos. He, too, competes on the national level.
“We’ve had one grand champion with every species we’ve shown at the county level, if not once, twice,” said his dad, Zuri Linzer. “He’s had a lot of failure, too. You learn going into it you’re not going to win every time. There’s more to it than winning.”
Mom Shannon agreed.
“Never give up, that’s a big one,” Shannon said when asked about the benefits of 4-H and livestock show competitions. “For a kid in this type of sport, which is individual, you’re not on a team. It’s been nice to have the camaraderie and fellowship of 4-H.”
Dressed in boots, cowboy hat, T-shirt, and champion belt buckle, Kelly pondered the same question.
“The main things I learned from this experience over the last eight years are patience, hard work, and knowing where your food comes from,” he finally said. “Not every one knows where your food comes from.”
As for picking his favorite between showing livestock and reining competitions, he can’t decide.
“It’s got the same stuff, the same experience” he said. “You work with the animals, you put in the time, you watch the results happen.”
The best part of showing is spending time with your animals, he continued, but then added he also loved the camaraderie with friends.
“When you’re at the show, you know everybody you’re showing against. But even though you’re showing against each other, everyone is helping one another,” he said. “We’re helping unload the animals, unpack trailers, whatever anyone needs.”
A senior at Liberty Hill High School, Kelly is on the school’s rodeo team, which allows him to travel to reining competitions.
“Reining is really simple,” said Kelly, completely understating the skill involved in the sport. “You ride in two circles on each side of the arena, large fast circles, then small slow circles, then four spins each way. And then, you have the really big stops.”
Kelly has won several medals from the World Paint Horse Show held each July in Fort Worth.
Kelly calls the part of the stock show that deals with cows, sheep, pigs, and other farm animals “a meat show.” Cooper Evans says “it’s a beauty contest with muscle.” Says McKenzie Evans: “It’s also about showmanship,” not just for the animals but for the 4-H members in the ring with them.
For the parents and ag teachers, it’s about building responsibility and a good work ethic.
“It’s about being teachable and being flexible,” said ag teacher Langbein. “You have to take what you’re told and work with what you have. As for the rest of it, you can’t teach the love of it.”
BURNET COUNTY LIVESTOCK SHOW
WHEN: Jan. 6-8
WHERE: Burnet County Fairgrounds, 1301 Houston Clinton Drive in Burnet