Dell City Senior Ups His Stockshow Game
Congratulations and hats off to Dell City School senior Tristan Smetak, who competed Saturday (Sept. 26) in the El Paso County Junior Livestock Show, and took second in his class, and seventh over all, with his beef steer.
Smetak said the El Paso show was a great learning experience – and a chance to sharpen his skills as he prepares for the 2021 Hudspeth County Livestock Show, and the San Antonio Stock Show next February. Smetak is a Dell City 4-H'er, and along with Clara Manigold of Fort Hancock, was one of just two Hudspeth County youth to compete at the El Paso show.
Smetak has been active in 4-H and FFA since he moved to Hudspeth County, about three years ago, but this is his first year to show a steer. It's required hard work and dedication on his part – and support from the local community.
Smetak's plan to show a steer began to take shape last summer. In August 2019, with money he'd earned, and with fencing donated by Debbie Knight, of Salt Flat, he acquired materials and built a pen and 12-by-20-foot barn on his family's rural property. But health problems prevented him from raising a steer that fall.
Then, this spring, Smetak began to do weekend ranch work with local livestock producer Russell Bramblett – and Bramblett offered Smetak his pick of a calf to raise. There were conditions, Smetak said.
“He said, 'If I give you a calf, I want you to go to El Paso, to our county show – and I'll take you to San Antonio myself,'” Smetak said.
Though raising a calf had been his idea, Smetak said there was a moment of hesitation when it became a real possibility.
“Till then my heaviest thing was a 75-lb goat,” he said, “and right now my steer weighs 980 lbs. My mind was a little intimidated by that.”
Smetak brought the calf home on June 5, and has been working with the animal daily since then. He said raising and training the calf has been easier than he expected – perhaps because of the particular animal he chose.
“I would say I was lucky,” Smetak said, “and got a pretty calm one out of the bunch.”
Smetak will take his steer to the Hudspeth County Junior Livestock Show in Sierra Blanca in January, and to the San Antonio show in February. He said showing a steer is “an opportunity that I'm glad to have, because it brings me further into 4-H and FFA than I've ever been.”
Smetak was born in small-town Wisconsin, but spent his earlier school years in San Antonio. When his family moved here three years ago, Smetak went from being one of more than 2,000 students in his high school – to being one of two members of the Class of 2021.
Smetak said he'd long had a “cowboying” inclination – an interest in livestock and rural life. But, socially, there wasn't much room for that in his large urban high school, he said. When he came to Dell City, Smetak said, “the pressure was off” and he could “relax” and pursue his interests.
Smetak said the more involved he's gotten in 4-H, FFA and stockshow, the more he's enjoyed it. He believes the experience is an invaluable one – that provides young people with a perspective on agriculture they might not otherwise get.
“I know it's way too early so say, but if I were to ever have kids I'd want them to try to raise something,” Smetak said, “because it's a learning experience. It brings you into a whole different realm, a different set of thinking.”
Smetak's mother, Peggy Danielecki, agrees that stockshow has been growthful for her son. She said Tristan has worked odd jobs to pay for feed and grooming supplies, and that, even while he's devoted time to 4-H and FFA, he's stayed on the honor roll.
“Even though he has been putting so much time and effort into the animals, he has also kept his grades up,” she said. “We are very proud of the young man he is becoming.”
Health issues that emerged last year have prevented Smetak from participating in athletics. He said that, when it comes to providing a sense of purpose and structure, raising an animal is a good alternative for those who can't participate in sports.
“It keeps you up late at night,” he said, “and it wakes you up early in the morning. It puts a little structure into their life – they can look forward to something to do at the end of the day, or at the beginning of the day.”
Congratulations to Tristan, and thanks to the community members who have supported his efforts!