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Mini-tails of hair

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Tales of Tails

There was a question that was asked  in our younger years that generated quite a bit of imagination.  What are you going to be when you grow up?  This question  had several answers at different stages in life.  If you were to ask my sister and I what we wanted to do between the ages of eight to ten,  the answer was simple… beauticians.

We were farmer’s daughters – not princesses.  We were raised to be tough and practical, and work meant that you had to get some poop on your boots every once in a while. Despite the poop on our boots, my sister and I loved to revel in the idea of beauty and glamor… our art was an epiphany, in the form of beef cattle.

Every summer we had 4-H projects that were destined to the county fair. As beef farmers, those projects of course included…the show steers. The early summer started with the separation process.  So there we were. Dad, us kids, all in our boots, standing at the fence, looking at a couple hundred head of cattle, trying to pick out the ‘best’. A show steer had characteristics that stood out from the rest:  Stance. Posture. Presence. Leaness -but not too much. Thickness – but not too much. Brisket. Rump. Straight back. Tall, but not too short. Short, but not too tall. In a nutshell, you knew a champion when you saw one. My sister and I knew EXACTLY what characteristics made a great steer. However,  in our opinion, there were was one thing that made a show steer a show a steer. In our terms, it was simple…..it was the tail.

In those cattle lots of yester-year, there roamed a few champion steers and they were passed up.  Why?  The qualifications were simple –  No tail ? No can do! I distinctly remember, sitting at the fence as Dad would point out a beautiful animal, practically Zeus-like in the world of steers.  My sister and I would watch, and patiently wait until the Zeus steer would take a turn, exposing a few pathetic hairs at the end of a nub for a tail. Becky and I would look at each other and in a moment – have the same, immediate opinion.  ”DAD! You can’t be serious. His tail is like…non-existant.  Next!”

During the summers, all we did was primp steers.  It was like having a giant Barbie, with a lot more hair – except well, you didn’t have to shampoo poop out of Barbie’s hair. Regardless, we took it seriously. The only thing we really had to fight with Dad about was…supplies.  Clearly, serious steer hair required serious products: hoof gloss, hoof mist, steer hair spray (extra firm hold and light hold) , steer shampoo etc.  Of course there were various steer combs and brushes – all completely necessary.  And the ‘Piece De Resistance’ – the absolute tool of all steer beauty;  A high- powered, super awesome, steer blow dryer, which looked like a mini air-compressor with a long hose, capable of any extreme, steer hair ‘blow-out’.  We liked to minimize the price of this necessary item as being just slightly over $100, but in actuality, was probably closer to $200.   We could negotiate most of the ‘tools of our trade’ with Dad…but not that one.  I don’t want to repeat the answer Dad gave us, after we asked for a steer blow dryer, that cost more than a few weeks worth of groceries.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box, so that is what we did…and it led us right to Dad’s machine shed.  It was sitting there in a dark corner, suddenly illuminated by the ‘idea light bulb’ over our heads.  THE SHOP VAC!!!  The shop vac was a heavy-duty vacuum, but it had a magical switch – reverse!  It blew air!  It wasn’t as high-powered as the dryer that we wanted, but it was functional.  The name of the game in the world of steer hair is BODY, and we were on a quest for EXACTLY that!

The steer tail is a delicate, treasured feat that requires various techniques to maintain full, luscious, fly swatting body!  We wanted our steer tails to look like they just walked out of a Beverly Hills salon.  This was a far cry from the farm – but we tried.  Our method was the bucket technique.  It sounds basic, but we swore on it.  It was a carefully mixed brew of beauty, in a bucket that we would hold on the steer’s tail for sometimes, up to an hour.  It took some discipline, holding a bucket up to the steer’s back side for that long, but after all -  beauty is pain.

The time seemed to fly during those summer days of steer beauty, listening to the boom box and working on our tans.  The drudgery over cattle beauty faded as we got older. Our teenage priorities became more important in our older, steer showing days.  Regardless, there was one thing that was never skimped on, or set aside…we would NOT be caught DEAD, walking into a show ring with a tail that didn’t look like a thousand man hours had gone into it!

Despite the years of running down the trail of tails and tears,  there is nothing that could compare to spending the summers at the exotic ,  studio and spa of  ’Kristen and Becky’s House of Steer Beauty’!



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Brands and their companies
Brands and their companies
ISBN 0787622915,9780787622916 , 1999
Places of Public Memory
Places of Public Memory
ISBN 0817356134,9780817356132 , University Alabama Press , 2010
Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials is a sustained and rigorous consideration of the intersections of memory, place, and rhetoric.

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