Buck Slade will compete in the National Western Stock Show in Denver this week. He will show two of his sheep, King George and Jerry, a pair of Hampshires.

Walking dogs in Lemon Park is a common sight but volunteers helping take down Lemon Park Lights Jan. 6 did a double take when they saw a mom and son taking their sheep for a walk.

This was not just a stroll in the park but this walk was designed to help prepare the sheep for an upcoming livestock show in Denver.

The National Western Stock Show runs from Jan. 10-21. Pratt County 4-H'er Buck Slade, a member of the Southwest 4-H Club, and his mom Amy Slade were walking the sheep, King George and Jerry, to help "socialize" them for show. Their part of the show will take place Jan. 12-15.

There will be huge crowds of people at the show so they decided to walk the sheep while the volunteers were taking down the lights to get them used to people talking and moving around like they will at the livestock show.

Both sheep in the park were Hampshires and they both had camouflaged coats over their own thick wool.

Slade said he had shown sheep at the Pratt County Fair, Kansas State fair and Kansas Junior Livestock Show but this would be his first time at a national competition and he is anxious to go.

"I wanted to try something different," Slade said.

Besides getting the sheep used to lots of people and moving from place to place, they also used the time to practice getting the sheep to load into the transport box in the back of the pickup. There is a metal stand the sheep jump on then they go up a short ramp and into the box.

The Slades have been practicing with the sheep a lot and when it was time to load them, they did not hesitate. They jumped up on the metal stand then went right up the ramp and into the transport box. The sheep are also fed in the box so they are eager to load up.

It's a long trip to the competition, about eight hours, so its important that the sheep are comfortable in the box.

National Western is a huge show and the "big dog" exhibiters will be there with their heated trailers. They will be up against some of the best showmen in the country, Amy said.

Slade will have to display his best skills as he leads the sheep through the showmanship events.

Working with sheep at this time of year is unusual. Normally, the sheep are sold after the state fair but this event requires them to keep the sheep longer and that requires different feed, Amy said.

The Slades have to arrive early on the first day of competition. Buck will have to get up and get busy so he can be ready when its his time to show ring.

Slade has been a member of the Southwest 4-H club for six years. Besides sheep, he also shows cattle, rabbits, foods and arts and crafts. At the 2017 Pratt County Fair he showed four sheep including Natural, Hampshire and his Grand Champion Crossbred.

@GaleR_Tribune