Tahlequah Daily Press

March 6, 2014

Last-place swine earns top sale bid

It was special moment not just for a young girl, but for the crowd

By SHERI GOURD
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.

The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.

“A lot of kids couldn’t do this if the business owners didn’t bid. We have great support from the community,” said Jody Vick, OSU Extension program assistant.

A group of men got together to bid on a swine to support the community and recognize the hard work of the youth. Representatives of S&S Communications, Chaffin Towers, American Environmental Fabrication & Supply and Bank of Cherokee County met before the sale to discuss what they could do to reward one particular 4-H member, Kristen Tinsley.

“We have good individuals in Cherokee County,” said Scott Manes, manager of sales and marketing for American Environmental Fabrication & Supply. “I bid every year, and it’s a good way to be involved in the community and give back. It’s the right thing to do. These kids deserve it for all the hard work they do.”

Randall Shankle, owner of S&S Communications, always goes to the shows and bids. His children also show animals. He had seen Kristen and her family work hard at the concession stand and with her swine.

Louis Chaffin, manager of S&S and Shankle’s uncle, and his family attend Cornerstone Fellowship Church with the Tinsley family. He and his sons, James and Clakie, spend several thousands of dollars every year at the show to reward the kids. He had also seen Kristen’s hard work over the years.

“We got together and agreed we wanted to do something special for her,” Chaffin said. “I said, ‘Why don’t we make it the top of sale for the show.’ And that’s what happened.”

Kristen has been entering the show for five years as a part of 4-H in Action. This year, the homeschooled senior entered two swine. One, named Chance, came in last place in its division, but was still accepted into the premium bid round, as the final participant.

The “four men,” as the Tinsley family calls them, had competition from another bidder for Chance. Jerry Rush, owner of Sycamore Springs Ranch, bid on several animals, with a goal of pushing all the bids over $500.

“It’s not a numbers game. It’s about helping the kids,” said Rush. “All those kids work hard on their animals.”

When it was time for Tinsley to present Chance, the bidding started at $250. Rush bid and then met return bids from the “four men” until he offered $9,500. The others hesitated, then bid $10,000. Rush conceded but went on to donate $5,000 to be split among all participants.

Angela Tinsley, Kristen’s mom, said the event ended with a standing ovation and a lot of teary eyes in the stands.

“Our family is still in shock,” said Angela. “The bidding started at $250. Within a minute, it was $4,000, and within three minutes, it was $10,000 for a last-place swine.”

The Tinsleys didn’t originally know the identities of the men who bid on Kristen’s swine and are still putting all the pieces together. But they are thankful. They have seen a small decline in the number of students competing and know how hard it can be for some families.

“What we did was not about us, but about her,” said Gary Chapman, president and CEO of Bank of Cherokee County. “All the kids do a really good job and work hard raising the animals.”

As far as the OSU Extension office knows, the $10,000 bid is a Cherokee County record. Due to the harsh winter, there were fewer participants this year than usual. The 75 in the premium sale received a total of $120,000 from bids and add-ons. They may use the money for whatever they wish.

“I’m proud of my hog,” said Kristen. “I talked to him and I said, ‘We did it!’”

She is ready to move on from the cold, early mornings of taking care of show swine, and says she will spend some of the money on her family and possibly a cement pad for her basketball goal.

When asked what will become of Chance, Kristen had a simple answer: “Meat! I love bacon.”

sgourd@tahlequahdailypress.com