When Cody May’s older sister began to show lambs several years ago as part of the Crowley High School agriculture team, it set the eighth-grader on a similar mission.
“It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen, so I really wanted to participate,” said Cody, 17.
Now a senior and president of the high school’s FFA chapter, Cody has taken his passion by the horns.
At this year’s 119th Fort Worth Stock Show, which begins Friday, Cody will show a steer, heifer and open-class stock and will compete in the Texas MADE scholarship event, exhibiting a fire pit that he constructed.
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All told, Cody will be at the Stock Show for 17 of its 23-day run.
With a five-page résumé of wins and accomplishments, Cody is one of many Stock Show competitors each year who keeps a demanding schedule that shows off a diversity of skills. Youth from across Texas are involved in competitions that involve the raising a variety of animals, from pigeons to pigs to steers and goats, baking pies, painting portraits, designing landscapes and assessing meats.
“We have quite a few kids that are involved in several different aspects of our organization,” said Crowley agriculture teacher Laci Harbor. “Cody has been involved in all those aspects and has been an FFA officer besides.”
Cody considers time management his most important skill learned from all his activities.
“Doing all these things, you have to schedule yourself,” he said. “There’s the responsibility of caring for these animals; they depend on me to feed them.”
The long days at the Stock Show would not be possible if Cody kept a regular high school schedule. Instead, he is one of 30 students taking classes full time through Crowley’s Global Prep Academy, which provides virtual classes through an online program customized to each student’s talents and time frame.
Big money for students
First for Cody at the Stock Show is the Texas MADE competition this weekend. The name stands for “promoting Mechanics, Agriculture, Development and Education through youth scholarship.” The competition is for 2015 Junior Agricultural Mechanics Show exhibitors who are seniors and have shown for at least two years.
The two-part event includes the exam (50 questions based on the book Agricultural Mechanics Fundamentals and Applications) and a verbal presentation, a three-minute talk by each contestant on the design and construction of his or her project.
The Texas MADE scholarship, worth $15,000, made its debut at last year’s Stock Show, which was an all-around record-setter for youth events.
The Junior Sale of Champions, which features the prize-winning livestock shown by youth, set a record for total sales receipts of $3.3 million. Additionally, some $464,500 were awarded through scholarships to 146 students, and educational grants and contributions totaled $349,600.
There were 11,973 junior exhibitor entries, up 4.5 percent from 2013, and junior exhibitors represented 236 Texas counties.
And make no mistake, the hundreds of thousands of people who descend yearly on the Will Rogers Memorial Center, home to the Stock Show, are there to see the cattle, hogs, goats and other animals.
“Without a doubt, it’s the livestock — by a wide margin,” said Brad Barnes, president and general manager of Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show (the Stock Show).
This year, Cody will show Pooh Bear, a Simmental cross steer; Maine Anjou heifers Jewel and Ariel; and Hannah and her 4-month-old bull calf Spartan.
Cody doesn’t intend to raise cattle for a living or become an ag teacher like his sister, Mikaela May, after her graduation this year from Tarleton State University in Stephenville.
He’s going for environmental sciences, including management of wildlife, fisheries and natural resources, thanks to his grandfather Fred Webb of Alvarado.
“Ever since I could walk, I’d be going out on the deer lease with him,” said Cody, who will attend Texas A&M University in the fall. “Because of that, I created a bond with the environment and with wildlife.”
An FFA-family affair
Cody and his parents, Wayne and Malinda May, live on 21/2 acres outside Crowley and raise only dogs and cats. But when it’s time to clean up stalls every night at the school district’s Sewell Agricultural Science Center, it’s a family affair to cut the time from 21/2 hours to maybe an hour.
“It’s our seventh and last year in FFA,” said Malinda May, who works in medical records for United HealthCare. “It’s sad, because now it’s our last this, and our last that, our last Fort Worth show and our last county show.”
Wayne May, an arson investigator with the city of Fort Worth, said it’s not a complete break; the couple plans to keep volunteering with both shows.
They’re grateful for the gifts they say agricultural competition and education have given their children.
“They get skills they can’t get anywhere else,” Malinda May said. “Cody knows time and money management; he can speak anywhere at a moment’s notice; they know how to win and lose and that you don’t always bring home the ribbon.”
Though he has been showing for several years, Cody admits to occasional qualms.
“The smaller shows don’t bother me, but when you go to Fort Worth and Houston, you get a little nervous,” he said. “You just want to do really, really well.”
He says he has won and saved up “a little bit” of college money, but senior year is when most of it will come in, so the stakes are high. Cody’s supporters say he is up to the challenge.
“We as ag teachers find Cody to be very goal-oriented and a determined student,” Harbor said. “He’s a good leader and a good kid. It’s pretty easy to brag about him.”
Correspondent Punch Shaw contributed to this report.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657