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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

The May gray we had earlier this month gave way to a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend after a few thunderstorms passed by last Friday. The warm weekend reminded me that the Memorial Day weekend is not far off and with it, the unofficial start of summer.

The Elks Rodeo starts the following Thursday with another great list of family events scheduled for this year. I know all the queen candidates and their supporters who help raise money for the area’s youth have been working tirelessly over the past six weeks, and are looking forward to the coronation of this year’s Elks Queen during Friday night’s rodeo event on May 31.

Kids participating in 4-H, FFA and Grange have been working with their animals, getting ready for the Santa Barbara County Fair in mid-July. I know our kids have been out walking their lambs, getting them in shape and practicing their showmanship. Many 4-H members will bring their animals to the annual 4-H Exhibit Day at the Santa Maria Fairpark on May 18. This event gives the kids a chance to show their animals and get pointers from judges before showing at the County Fair in July. If you get a chance come out and see the kids and their animals, there is no charge for attending. I’ll be there with the Farm Bureau barbecue team cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. Stop by, say hello and stay for lunch.

Both Kathleen and Clayton’s lambs were shorn two weeks ago in preparation for Exhibit Day. I think it always turns a little cold after the sheep are shorn this time of year. I’ve talked about it before, but I always remember when we were growing up and the shearers would come from Bakersfield to shear my grandfather Sam’s sheep.

I can recall helping my brother and grandfather make sure the corrals were in good shape, repairing any broken wires or missing staples in the wooden posts. We checked the wooden panels that were used as chutes for the sheep as they made their way from the outside corrals to inside the barn where they were shorn.

There was a wooden floor my grandfather built before I stared helping that took up about half the space where the sheep were shorn. I can still picture the two sheep shearers walking out into the standing sheep and grabbing one, taking it back to the wooden floor where they seamlessly removed their large woolen fleeces with their electric shears.

After the fleece was removed and tied with twine it was tossed up to be placed in the wool sack hanging inside a wooden frame in the corner of the shearing area.

One of my favorite stories is when I was old enough for the first time to help stomp the wool down inside of the wool sack — and got stuck inside. Usually this job was left to one of the men helping us during shearing. I didn’t wait for enough fleece to be dropped inside, and after I stomped it down, I couldn’t reach the top of the wooden frame to get out. I remember it got pretty hot inside that woolsack, and I had to yell before someone heard me and jumped up onto the frame and pulled me up to the top. I waited until the sack was good and full before I jumped back in again.

Come out and see the kids and their animals during Exhibit Day later this month, and be sure to put the Elks Rodeo and County Fair on your calendars.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineayrd.com

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