\This story took place 50 years ago, but I remember it vividly… a cool, crisp, and sunny day at the Ashland County Fair. Show day!
My market lamb was sheared, washed, weighed, trimmed and ready for the big day of Junior Fair competition. As a scrawny, lanky young girl, about as confident as any preteen could be among intimidating peers, I was ready for the show in my brand-new Wrangler jeans, unspoiled white shirt, and tight pigtails. Before it was my turn to enter the judging area, I noticed a lovely woman sitting quietly off to the side. She was pretty and smiling sweetly at the young exhibitors. I thought maybe she was royalty of some sort and soon found out she was the judge’s wife.
The judge made us line our market lambs up. He studied each animal. He studied each showman. I did my best to show off my lamb for his attention. He concluded the competition by explaining why he chose the top animals and encouraged each participant to continue striving to be better the next time. He constructively gave criticism in a kind and educational manner. He took time to teach after he judged.
And because of him, I learned how to be a better showman. I found out this judge was recognized state-wide and nationally among top breeders and open class competitors as one of the best. Yet he took great energy to explain why he selected the way he did. I learned about showing sheep. But because of the judge, I also learned about healthy competition and the pride gained from hard work.
It ended up being a fantastic experience for this pig-tailed 4-H member as I gained everlasting confidence and self-assurance from the judge.
Little did I know way back then, as a young and impressionable girl, that I would be a funeral director someday and own a funeral establishment in the hometown of that judge – Gerald “Bud” Westlake.
The Bud Westlake that I got to know in my adult years was a good shepherd to his family, friends and entire community. He continued to lead and encourage others with compassion and caring, just as he did for me as a young showman, some five decades ago.
And now you know the rest of my story.
Rest well, faithful servant and shepherd, rest well.
Holly J. Underwood