JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Facing a corral with three young steers, Nona Patcheck acknowledged she had never handled the head gear for livestock before.
“I’m stepping up with boldness,” said Nona at the livestock pavilion of the La Plata County fairgrounds on Sunday as she vowed to “flip one over.”
Nona, 16, was the first of four competing 4-H youths to catch one of the three castrated male cows in the corral. These steer showed no interest in cooperating with the youths trying to put a halter on their heads and lead them into a trailer.
Weighing 300 to 400 pounds, the calves poked the fence looking for a weak spot. One calf busted loose and needed to be forced back in the pen.
Wearing helmets for their protection, the youths were not allowed to lasso or ride the calves, which often wiggled free from a headlock and fought back as best they could.
“I got stepped on, and I got kicked a couple of times,” Nona said. “I’m in a little bit of pain. I got kicked in the chest, so my chest really hurts, but that’s OK. I got it, I did it.”
Michael Semler, 16, president of the La Plata County 4-H Council, acknowledged that the Catch-It contest is tough.
“It’s hard to get them cornered,” he said. “You try to tackle something that outweighs you by 150 pounds. They have a lot more power and strength to push you around.”
Because she caught one of the calves, Nona will be awarded a female heifer in November to raise and breed during the next two years. So by 2014, the 4-H kids can show the mother and baby cows.
Other Catch-It winners Sunday were Keanna Smith, 13, and Garrett Van Den Berg, 13. In a show of sportsmanship, the fourth contestant, Dillon Flowers, 15, helped Keanna steer the last remaining steer to the trailer.
There can be as many as four different competitions for cattle, goats, sheep and hogs, but participation was low this year so there was only enough interest for a cattle contest.
Megan Semler, the announcer of the event and sister of Michael, attributed the low interest to the difficulty in raising livestock.
The Catch-It program was started as a way to “help kids start their own herd,” Michael Semler said.
Because he caught a cow last year, Michael got to raise a heifer for the fair, taking first place in the first-year category this year.
He has no regrets.
“It was fun,” he said. “I got beat up pretty good and dragged around a lot, but it was well worth it.”