To the Winner

(Photo: Sarah Thomas)


Often times, it’s all about those who didn’t win. “Keep trying” and “There’s always next year” are phrases designed to comfort those that didn’t win. There is an ongoing debate of “everyone gets a trophy.” Everyone always offers support to that person without the high honor.

Well, winner, I’m speaking to you. Whether it was first place in the school spelling bee, first team honors, an A on a test, or in this case, first place at the county fair.

First and foremost, to quote my favorite movie of all time:

“Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” – Han Solo

You’re going to be proud. There will be pictures, handshakes, smiles, laughs, and hugs from mom and grandma. People that you have never seen before will come up to you and strike up conversation, just because you have the purple rosette. Don’t let it get to your head. The next step is not solving the world’s problems.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is awesome. My first experience in winning came in 2008. I had the Grand Champion Dairy Beef Feeder at the Hardin County Fair. I was 9 years old, and that calf beat all of the odds. A hernia the size of a softball had been operated just months before. Dr. Kearns said he thought it’d hold, but he couldn’t be sure. The calf was in quarantine, and didn’t eat well for the longest time. (At the time, we could only bring one animal, and the other one I had in the barn was completely nuts.) And yes, I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum. The very next year I stood next-to-last in my class with the better of my steers.

What I’m about to tell you is the part no one mentions. There is one cold hard stare. You know how you can just tell when someone is looking at you? That stare seems to pierce your very being? Amplify that, and you’ll have the stare of the person who thought they had it. There is one person in that barn that thought they had the whole thing in the sack. They had a spot dusted for the trophy, a nail driven for the sign, and a cake baked for the cookout planned in celebration. And you beat them.

There will be whispers. People will watch you out of the corner of there eyes, as they mutter a slue of insults, speculations, and false ideas. Kind folks that you viewed as your friends, colleagues, and mentors will suddenly turn cold, distant, and silent.

Rumors will be spread, and nasty things will be said. You’ll be accused of cheating, rigging, schmoozing, hiring trainers, and everything else in the book. You have two options from that point.

  1. React. Give them what they want, lash out and defend yourself, your animal, and your reputation.
  2. Smile. Grin and bear it. Let it fuel your fire, and come back the next year and do it again.

My humble advice? Ignore the ice cold stare and pay no attention to the rumors. Just keep doing you. Keep showing, roll into the fair next year and as everyone stares you down – practically slobbering like hungry dogs – waiting to see what you back off of that trailer. Just stall your animal, and make it your own.

I’m often asked my advice in making a winner. People ask me how I feed, how I pick, how I break, and about everything else. The answer is a simple one. Do what works for you. The key word? YOU! Not your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. There is one road to success, and thats hard word from only YOU! Doug Phillips, one of my earliest mentors, said this quote. I borrowed it when I spoke with Joel Penhorwood of Ohio Ag Net & Ohio’s County Journal in this story.

“The champion’s made while no one is watching.” – Doug Phillips

So winner, congratulations. You have a target on your back, and a sparkle in your eye. Will you take the easy way out and let them dull your sparkle? Or will you tough it out take the stabs to the back to keep winning?

The choice is yours. Keep doing you.

One thought on “To the Winner

  1. Well said, Mr. Buchenroth.

    It’s not a pleasant thought—someone disliking you because of your success—but it’s one we all face eventually, and you hit the nail on the head: we can’t let what others say determine how we think about ourselves, and we should never, ever be shamed of what we have honestly achieved.

    But we also can’t give in to the temptation to tell others just how hard we’ve worked and exactly why we deserve to win, because that’s not our job. Our job is to show them. And hopefully, inspire them.

    It’s a difficult subject, but an important one, which you are very qualified to address. Thank you for sharing your point of view on something that means a lot to you.

    I believe, like you, in the winners. The people who take last year’s loss and turn it into this year’s win. And I believe that each of us can be one.

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