FORT WORTH -- Most competitors in the Fort Worth Stock Show's junior steer show feel they need an exceptional bovine and a friendly judge to bring home the blue ribbons.
But Julie Stedje knows that something else is needed to take home a championship.
"I have my lucky pole in the ring," said Stedje, a nurse from Gruver who is the mother of Callie Stedje, who showed the grand champion steer at the Stock Show in 2009. "When Callie won, I stood by that pole and ever since, that's where I'm at. I always stand by it when my kids are showing, and I cross my fingers."
Because 17-year-old Callie is not the only Stedje that needs mom's help on the pole position. Showing steers and barrows is very much a family affair with the Stedjes. Callie's sister Bailey, 15, and brother Tyler, 12, also show livestock. And Saturday, Bailey's chances in the show ring were jeopardized by spectator who obviously didn't know where he was.
"There was a man standing beside [my lucky pole] and I said, 'I'm not trying to be rude or pushy, but I've got to get my fingers on that pole and cross 'em.'"
The luck-blocking spectator politely yielded his spot and Bailey took a fourth place ribbon in her Hereford class.
So the lucky pole came through to some extent, but now Julie is going to have to find a new support of good fortune when Callie shows, because Stock Show rules prevent her from showing a steer here again after earning a grand championship and selling the beast in the 2009 Sale of Champions for the staggering price of $140,000.
This time around, she is showing a pig.
"I have been showing pigs for a long time, but I'm just as not as serious about it. I would rather show steers," said the Gruver High School senior, who will be showing a steer and a barrow at the upcoming San Antonio Stock Show. "A hog is more difficult. They do their own thing. So you just hope that they cooperate and don't squeal while you're in the ring."
It is not surprising that Callie would love showing steers, given the financial windfall she earned at the 2009 Stock Show. But it is a little surprising to see how mature the then 13-year-old was about becoming instantly wealthy.
"I saved it all pretty much, so I could have it for college. I probably bought a few steers with it, but that's about it," said Callie, who was thrilled, and maybe changed somewhat, by her lucrative victory.
"It was really awesome, first of all. And I think it has made me a little bit more competitive in showing."
And, apparently, having winning stock has helped Callie sharpen her judging eye. Her Hansford County 4H livestock judging team, which also included her 16-year-old cousin, Travis, recently won a national championship at the American Royal Stock Show in Kansas City.
"We started [showing] back in third grade with Callie because Brent, my husband, thought that she might need to develop a little more self confidence," said Julie, with a hearty laugh. "It's tough, but it's fun. And you think you are going to blink your eyes and it's all going to be over."
Win or lose, no Stedje is going to have to worry about support.
"We always show together. We all have steers. I think we want each other to do good," Callie said, about the crew that might be called Team Stedje which, at the Stock Show, also includes cousin Kaitlyn, 13, and a couple of grandmothers.
"It is a complete family deal. We are surrounded by great people and family. The togetherness is what we love about it," said Julie Stedje. "I think [showing has] taught them a lot of life lessons. They've learned that they can be the best and then next year, they may not do anything at all. I think it's taught them to be thankful."
But perhaps Tyler, who shows two steers named Superman and Lex Luthor, says it best.
"You just wake up and work with your steer all day," Tyler said. "And if you win, you have the pride of knowing you did it by yourself."