Karmen Miller - The 4H/FFA life
WINTERS, TX - If you ask most 9-year olds what they like to do, they'll usually say that they like to play games or watch cartoons. If you ask a 9-year old in Winters named Karmen Miller, she'll tell you that she likes to show swine at livestock shows. Much like Clint Eastwood or Annie Oakley, she has a lengthy, cowboy/cowgirl explanation when you ask her about if she likes the livestock shows; "Yes."
Karmen is a 3rd grader of few words, but she doesn't need to explain her favorite past-time, showing swine. She lets the trophy case do the talking. It's probably best to just explain it by the numbers: 2 Champion banners; 2 Reserve Champion banners; 1 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo trophy; 2 Champion buckles; 2 Reserve Champion buckles; 2 All-around showmanship buckles; 3 Peewee showmanship buckles. Her all-around showmanship was against competition all the way up through 12th grade. Nothing was a "gimme."
Last year Karmen placed in the top 10 in the entire state in Dark Purebread (other), Jr. Showmanship and top 10 in Region 2: All-around. For the TJLA, she'll receive a jacket. Ask her if she enjoys the journey and you'll get and emphatic, "Yes."
Karmen's day starts at 6:30 a.m., when she gets up for school. Her day ends around 6:30 p.m. The students get out of school at 3:45. Rather than come home and camp in front of a computer or television set, Karmen is off to spend around 3 hours working with the pigs.
The key to understanding Karmen, the attentive girl of few words, is to look at the way her eyes light up when you ask her about showing swine. If you want to see genuine excitement, ask her what the names of her pigs are. For the record, their names are Mary, Charlene, Robert Earl and Billy Bob. Like any true competitor, she offers a lengthy explanation regarding her favorite part of showing her swine; "Winning."
Karmen works with her swine every day, and she will tell you about the most challenging part of showing, "Teaching them to walk with their heads up." The young lady doesn't have to think twice about that answer. You can simply take it for gospel that teaching hogs to walk with their head up for show is difficult. She shows Spotted Swine, Berkshire and Duroc gilts, as well as Berkshire barrows.
When you get Karmen discussing the shows, she will tell you that one of her favorite parts about the shows around the state are the friends that she meets. Well, dad, Buddy J. Miller will mention it as the young lady goes into a detailed explanation; "Yes."
She does indeed know about swine. She will tell you that they need to weigh between 250-290 pounds for show and that caring for them in an epic blizzard is the epitome of dedication. To her, it's just what she does. You take care of your animals.
Buddy gives some details of the responsibility that the young lady shouldered during the blizzard, "I'm handicap so she had to do much of the work. We were limited on where we could go due to the snow and ice so she carried water, 2-gallons at a time, to take care of her pigs every day."
Everyone in Texas know the wrath of mother nature's cold spell, none more so than farmers and ranchers. On February 15th, the wind chill had temps reaching -10F. On February 16th, temps dipped to -7F. Karmen is now a member of that hardened group of men and women who have endured the elements to care for her livestock. She earned her place in that group; 2-gallons of water at a time.
If you ask her what her favorite breed is, she'll tell you that Spotted swine are tops on her list. She offers a quick reply when asked why those are her favorite breed, "Because they show good." She doesn't have to think about it. Her favorite part of showing is winning, her favorite breed is the Spotted swine and her favorite part of the shows is making new friends. Karmen spends 20-25 minutes walking her pigs every day. Her easiest pig to work with is Mary. As you might have guessed, Mary is a Spotted pig.
The little lady did try her hand at showing goats. She showed a Boer goat but, as she points out, "It was bucking and didn't cooperate when we walked into the ring."
It's not just the livestock shows that hold her interest. During the interview in her home the television was tuned into a bull riding rodeo event. She was attentive throughout the entire interview. She listened to every question, but she also listened to the sound of the gate opening on the bull chute.
While she is somewhat shy, you need not do more than spend a few seconds with her to understand, that when this little lady looks you in the eye, it's business.
A noticeable level of excitement creeps in when a wry smile crosses her face as she answers a question about whether or not she gets excited before a show; "Yes." Before shows, she says that she will brush the pigs to suppress the butterflies in her stomach.
In addition to the livestock shows around the state, she'll also compete in jackpots throughout the year. In October, she'll compete in The Exposition in Indianapolis. At the end of October, she'll be competing at the Heart of Texas Fair in Waco. There isn't any doubt that she'll add to her already hefty trophy case.
Like any successful youth, she has a solid support system in place. Not only are mom and dad there to help her and work with her, she also has grandparents that live nearby. There is always expert advice close at hand via FFA, 4H and the breeder that the family uses, Underdog Genetics, run by Mason Garner in Lawn, Texas.
I close the interview by asking her if she has any other hobbies, other than showing hogs. She gives a Karmen-esque reply, "Softball." Then, the sound of the chute opening echoes from the television.