Adams County 4-H’er Peyton Bell, center, receives support and encouragement from her family, including mother Ashley Murray, left, and grandmother Bettye Bell, right, to help her be successful in showing livestock.
Family Embarks on Showmanship Adventure
Story by Keri Collins Lewis • Photos by Kevin Hudson
You know you’re a tall 10-year-old when your grandma packs your birth certificate with your goat-grooming supplies before you head to a livestock show—just in case anyone questions your age.
At 10, Peyton Bell is well over 5 feet tall and has been showing dairy goats in the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s 4-H program in Adams County for just 1 year. But what a year it has been.
Ashley Murray, 4-H Mom
The self-proclaimed “girly” trio of Peyton, Ashley, and grandmother Bettye Bell laugh as they recall the training provided by Franklin County 4-H livestock volunteer Deidra Rollins.
“We were not prepared,” Ashley admits. “Peyton’s grandfather, Henry Bell, has had goats, so he knows how to take care of them. But taking care of a goat and grooming a goat for a show are two entirely different things. You clean them up like a baby. We had no idea you had to do all that. We were fortunate that 4-H volunteers and agents took us under their wings.”
Peyton has a natural affinity for animals.
“The best part of having goats is having a friend to talk to,” the soft-spoken fifth-grader explains. “I’m the only one in Adams County showing goats, so I’ve learned to warm up to new people. Now we know a few people from Rankin County and Franklin County who show goats. I’ve made new friends.”
Peyton and Ashley agree that Rollins and Lincoln County Extension agent Jennifer Williams have been instrumental in Peyton’s success—including her first-place win at the Dixie National Livestock Show on her first attempt.
“Ms. Jennifer taught me how to keep eye contact with the judge,” Peyton says. “She took her time with me and corrected me so I would practice doing it right. Deidra and her daughter, Torie, really helped, too.”
Williams says Peyton lights up the ring.
“Peyton always has a smile and looks happy to be there,” she observes. “It really sets her apart.”
Showmanship competitions evaluate the exhibitor and his or her ability to show each animal to its best advantage, Williams explains.
“You have to know how to make it look its best and how to get it to cooperate in the ring. You have to be prepared to talk to the judge and answer questions about your animal. You really have to love it, and she does,” she says.
Williams says Peyton stands out for many reasons, not just her numerous first- and second-place awards.
“She is so young but so driven,” she says. “Her drive and her work ethic are what allow her to be so successful.”
Bettye Bell, a retired school administrator and former science teacher, is thrilled with their 4-H experience.
“I love that she is in tune with animals and is getting a better understanding of nature,” she comments. “I like that she is well rounded, even if it’s an outlet I was not expecting. I told her, ‘I can take you, I can be at every show, but I’m too old to be running behind goats!’”
In addition to 4-H, Peyton plays piano and participates in SOAR and Junior Beta Club. She serves as an usher and is on the praise team at her church.
“I’m going to stay focused on goats,” she says. “I want to keep showing until I get out of high school.”
Then she drops a bombshell her mom and grandmother are not expecting.
“I also want to show horses,” she adds. “And cows because, at the State Fair, they dress them up in costumes.”
“Don’t tell your grandfather!” Bettye warns.
Then she laughs. Because she knows, when Peyton puts her mind to it, the sky is the limit.