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A bittersweet goodbye

For 16-year-old David Gladman, the day after the Jackson County Fair Junior Livestock Auction is always the hardest.

A member of the FFA Crater chapter, Gladman will say goodbye to a steer for the seventh time. 

Gladman purchased "Tuxedo," a 1-year-old black Maine steer in November and embarked on a 10-month journey to raise his animal for auction. The 1,355-pound steer will be auctioned off Saturday. Last year, Gladman's entry, Tuxedo's brother, sold for more than $12,000 — some of which went to purchase Tuxedo.

While that may sound like an exorbitant price, the money was well spent. Gladman set aside a portion of the earnings for college, where he plans to study mechanical engineering. Roughly $1,900 of his take will be used to buy a new steer for next year, as well as to pay for raising the animal.

The rest? The recently licensed driver is looking to buy a new set of wheels.

Gladman is the youngest of five children, all of whom participated in FFA.

"It's what I've grown up doing," he says. "I wanted to walk in big brother's footsteps, and my family raises show cattle."

Gladman purchased Tuxedo at his older brother's wedding — hence the name — and it fits: his black coat is spotless except for one small wedge of white between his eyes.

For the first few months, Gladman spent time nurturing Tuxedo, even showing him how to walk. Now, he looks as comfortable grooming the massive animal as most people do petting their cats. He spends an hour at the fairgrounds washing, brushing and blow-drying the animal. He says each steer has its own personality, just like a dog. Tuxedo, like his brother, is good-natured but doesn't like to sit still.

On Saturday, Tuxedo will be sold. But Sunday is the day Gladman always dreads.

"The next day they call lots," Gladman says. The young members who have spent months raising their animals have to walk them out, hand them over and say goodbye.

"I made my mom carry the steer the first time. It's like getting rid of a pet."

But after years of saying goodbye, Gladman has reached a sense of calm. It's all part of the livestock-raising process. He takes solace in knowing that his animal was well cared for during the last 10 months.

"We gave them better lives," Gladman says.

Reach reporting intern Hannah Golden at hgolden@mailtribune.com.

Seth Cox of Eagle Point soaks down his cow at the Jackson County Fair Thursday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
David Gladman, 16, prepares his cow, 'Tuxedo,' for auction at the Jackson County Fair Thursday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch