Twisters, Flintstones, and Pink Alpacas!
By Suzanne Cox
So what do twisters, Flintstones, and pink alpacas have in common? They all played a major role in our family weekend! No, I really haven’t lost my senses. I was asked to judge performance for the 2012 Southern Select alpaca show in Shelbyville, TN. Since Shelbyville is just 1½ hours from home, Andrew and I thought it would be nice to take the family. The kids have been to an alpaca show before, but never one where I was judging. As the week progressed and our travel date approached, the weather was not looking so good. The weather reports were calling for severe storms, tornadoes, hail, and high winds. We decided to leave early Friday, to try and get ahead of the storms.
Friday morning we hustled to get farm chores done and get everyone packed up and on the road. Macey and William were so excited to be going on “vacation.” The first sign things that day may not go so well was the high winds. When wind speeds are high enough to collapse your pig shelter, you know things are about to get rough! So we get on the road and head on out. We get to Shelbyville just as the skies are turning grey. When we pulled up to the hotel, I ran in quickly hoping to get our things in before the storm came. However, when I told the desk clerk who I was, he found no reservation for us. After calling another nearby hotel, we discovered our reservation was on the other side of town in the direction we had already past. A funnel cloud had just been spotted 16 miles from us, and the desk clerk suggested we go as quickly as possible to check in before the storm hit. So back out I go, and once again we were racing across town.
When we arrived at our hotel, I ran in to get the key, and Andrew and I collected as much as we could carry and raced in with the kids. As he opened our hotel room door and I stepped inside, my mouth dropped open. Our tiny room held one bed. I asked the desk clerk for another room with double beds, only to discover there were none. With only a few hotels in the area, and all of them booked for the alpaca show, our options were nonexistent. So I headed grumpily back to the room to settle in and ride out the storm.
With three kids and two adults in one very small room, we were all a little tense and restless. We kept the TV tuned in to the weather and watched as weather warnings popped up all across the state. When the storm reached us, we could definitely see it coming! With tornado sirens blaring, fire trucks racing up the road, and the kids huddled in the corner, I began snapping pictures out our window. Here you can see the wall cloud passing over us. I had to step away and close the window when the hail came.
We made it through the storm, and thankfully Shelbyville only experienced high winds, hail, and rain. By the time all of the weather warnings were over, we had all been cooped up in the room for six hours. Now it was bedtime, and there was the problem of having 4 people and only one bed. The baby was in a playpen, which took up the only available floor space wide enough for a cot. Ever heard the song about the Little Monkeys in the bed? Well, we all laid across the bed and curled up to sleep. During the night, when I got up with the baby, Macey and Andrew quickly took up my wee little space. So I tried to sleep in the chair. By morning, I was not feeling so happy about our little trip.
We headed off to the show grounds to meet with the show supervisor and get ready for the performance events. I was to judge youth and adult obstacles and showmanship that day, and the costume contest the next. My supervisor was a very nice lady from Indiana. As I learned more about her that day, my attitude towards our problems quickly changed. While my family may have suffered a sleepless night, her family lost much of their family farm. When we were all stuck in our hotel room watching the weather on the news, her family was living through a nightmare in Henryville, Indiana. They lost several of their barns, including one over 100 years old. Their homes and vehicles sustained heavy damage, fencing was ripped up, and animals killed. While this woman was busy running a successful show hundreds of miles from her home, her family members and friends were out searching for missing alpacas scattered in the tornado. I quickly became ashamed of myself, and thought how lucky we were to be safe and sound, and to have a home to go home to at the end of the weekend.
I always enjoy working with the children at these events. Most are fun, courteous, and serious about the handling of their alpacas. This time was no exception. We had competitors from the age of 6 to 66. Alpacas really are fun for all ages! As you can see, even the smallest of “little bitties” can handle a full grown adult.
While showmanship may be the most useful of the performance classes, obstacles are definitely the most fun! This show had a really inventive and efficient obstacle designer. She themed the course on Nascar this year. Complete with a Nascar bridge, oil slick obstacle, and orange cones for maneuvering.
Alpacas do not like things hitting their face and neck. Nor to they like going through things when they cannot see the other side, making this obstacle a double challenge.
Here we have a simple little pit filled with small balls. The task is to place both front feet in the pit. This is much harder than it looks! Alpacas are smart, and they must think we are crazy wanting them to do such a thing when they can simply walk around it. Behind him you see the orange cones used for maneuvering. Picture a horse pole bending, same concept only with an alpaca.
Backing is another task alpacas are not so fond of. They much prefer going forward, where they can see any possible predators rather than backing into unknown territory. This alpaca performed the best at backing that day. He was calm, alert, and trusting of his handler.
Here we had our most colorful alpaca of the day. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you, that is a tie-dyed pink, blue, and purple alpaca! Alpaca fiber can be dyed using food coloring, kool aid, or even jello without damaging the fiber. He is walking the rungs.
Sunday we had the kids favorite class, the costume contest! For this, even the kids not only dress themselves and their alpaca in costumes, they also write a story detailing their adventures as their characters. Judging is based on the amount of coverage on the animal, items that may be dangling or make noise are worth extra points. The story, how well the pair match, and creativity are also factored in. It can be pretty difficult to decide among such excellent costumes!
Fred and Dino Flintstone
A Hobo Pair.
Miss America and Lady Liberty
The costume contest ended our alpaca show adventure. We once again piled into the car and got on the road again. On the way home, we passed through Bell Buckle, TN. There we found a little place called Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery.
We stopped to look around a while and enjoyed listening to the recordings that told about how the confederate flag was designed, advancing union troops on the south, and several other tales. My favorite part though was the Pledge to the South.
This park was small, but well maintained and in a beautiful hilltop setting. And, of course, no war park would be complete without a cannon! William insisted that I take a picture for him of the cannon. Since the older kids had gone home with my parents, leaving us with just the baby, Cierra stood in for William and manned the guns.
We made it home safe and sound Sunday evening after a long and eventful weekend. Thankfully, there was no damage done at home, and all of our critters were safe and sound. Monday came with clear skies, peaceful winds, and new births here on the farm. But that is a story for another time!
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