WHEATLAND – With everything going on in this masked, depressed world right now, it’s challenging enough just to be growing up as a teenager. Kaidyn Kasun is a local teen that turned tears to smiles and provided an important life lesson to her peers, her mentors, her family, her community… and herself.
When you are dealing with domesticated animals, it can sometimes become trying at best. No matter how many hours you train them. No matter how many times they were “perfect” in the training circle. No matter how many times they made you believe they were going to behave. Never forget the “pooper scooper” because it happens, and sometimes show animals can simply not “show” up. Perhaps at inconvenient moments, and more often than not, in the spotlight of a show arena under the scrutiny of ag judges.
During the Platte County Fair this year on a very rainy morning an interesting story occurred. It involved a big red steer who had a mind of his own and an 11-year-old girl who had high hopes and lofty aspirations. It was John Lennon who said, “life happens when you are busy making other plans.”
From her experiences of attending county and state fairs since she was just old enough to remember things, she was being prepared for her moments in the spotlight. In fact, the year she turned 7 years of age was her inaugural year to show a steer that placed fifth at the Wyoming State Fair.
As a teen and having several fairs under her competitive belt, she brought two steers to the table. Two steers as different as you could imagine. The Maine Anjou golden, a moderate, laid back mountain of a steer named “The Rock” was easygoing and easy to control even if he did outweigh his tiny handler with a massive tonnage of 1367 pounds.
The other, a red steer named “Mufasa” with a mind of his own went into the show ring with mischief on his mind and a spring in his step. And somewhere between the promises of behaving and standing tall and proud in the winners circle, he thought to himself, “naw, I really don’t want to show today, I think I’ll do some cardio and go for a run.”
And since he was 1295 pounds, he could pretty much have his way.
“We use this thing called a cable halter,” Kasun said. “It’s a breaking halter made out of all cable and you connect the leash to it. Sometimes they back up and go running. He’d done that before to me at the house and we thought he was going to be OK with the breaking halter on, but obviously he wasn’t.”
And as other steers in the competition were being led to show, “Fernando” (Mufasa) decided to go off and smell the flowers. And being that big boy’s handler, Kasun said she had an uneasy intuition that something ominous was brewing in the heart of that young rascal.
“I didn’t realize, but when he bolted, I got cut by the cable halter in the worst place possible,” Kasun said. “between the thumb and the index finger. I had to tape because I still had to show. I was just scared.”
Something the young teen had prepared for the past 18 months was now out of her control as she watched all the other steers in a row quietly and obediently standing with their handlers. She stood in tears, her hand on fire from the cut, and she watched her thoroughbred racing away from frustrated pursuers dodging left and right like a skilled running back eluding the defense. For Kasun those moments went into slow motion and felt like an eternity before the steer was finally captured and brought back to her.
Her mind flashed back to the state open show only weeks prior, where this same steer was showing with Kasun’s dad. The steer had backed out of his halter and run off after winning the competition and took a lap around the show arena almost like a victory lap. Kasun felt that it was more arrogance than confidence and decided right then and there that this little guy was getting a nose ring.
Now the steer did place second in his grouping at the Platte County Fair and qualified for the State Fair, but the nose ring was in place before the trip to Douglas. Kasun then put most of her focus into her “Rock” and the mighty golden steer did not disappoint as heading to the State Fair, she knew that even if Mufasa was going to be, well, Mufasa, she would still have her golden boy steady… as a rock. Pun intended.
“Going to the State Fair, I was excited,” she said. “And I knew it was going to be very busy and we had to work very hard for this and put a lot of effort into it. I was very nervous that day about showing my red steer. He actually did good because I put my fingers in the nose ring and led him all the way so he wouldn’t run off.”
Mufasa took third in his class at the fair that day, and although they were pleased, he was mainly the “buddy steer” and the main focus would be on her golden who she has only owned and worked with for a year.
“We weighed him into the Maine Anjou market class,” she said. “He’s always been relaxed, and we’ve just been working with him on the cool nights getting him ready. In the ring he was a little jumpy and I was a little surprised, because sometimes he just wants to lay down. But he did good.”
He won grand champion in his class, reserve in his division and reserve grand champion overall.
“Overall, she was No. 2 in the state with that steer,” said her mother, Skye Dunlap.
With Kasun, she was showing in cross-bred market class, going up against children that were more experienced and much older. She also had the recent memories from weeks earlier of a runaway steer and a scar that was still fresh on her hand.
Now, it may be a lesson about not naming your animals after Lion King characters, but the true character teaching here was the grit of a Platte County girl weighing in at somewhere around 100 pounds. How she was able, not only to bring huge animals to submission, but to overcome disappointments and fears from yesterday gone wrong to find victory in the new mercies of tomorrow.
“It’s determination, basically,” she said. “I knew that my calf was a good steer and I couldn’t give up on him and he was very good in terms of his body. I also knew there was payback because I knew he was getting a nose ring and I had a way to control him now.”
“About two hours after he ran off from her at the county fair, he got one, because he was so naughty,” Dunlap said.
As for naming animals that she knows have to go to market, Kasun waxes philosophical.
“I’m used to it by now, but I still don’t like it,” she said. “I wish I could keep all my animals, especially the special ones. But, like my first year I won reserve at Platte County and so I got to get that calf’s hide and keep it and stuff like that.”
And thus, she always has a part of that one with her.
Kasun’s aspirations are to grow up and become a veterinarian and have a ranch big enough to house and keep all of her animals. With her track record of determination, hard work and a spirit that doesn’t give up, it’s a pretty good bet that Dr. Kasun will be very successful in her practice.
And one day, when you visit her veterinary clinic, notice the red hide mounted on the wall and a hook that holds a nose ring that will forever remind her that giving up is never an option.