Isn’t it crazy to ponder how one simple invitation can alter the trajectory of your life? Almost 10 years ago JDP senior Ella’s mom Patti worked for a woman who raised cattle. That woman invited Patti and Ella out to her farm for her annual cattle show on an October Friday evening…could there be any better time of year to go to a cattle show? I’m imagining the smells of drying hay, bonfires and crisp fall air.
They figured, why not? Let’s go! So into the show marched 8 year old Ella wearing her Northface jacket, Uggs boots and skinny jeans. She laughs now thinking how out of place she must have seemed at a cattle show in her preppy ware. Well out of place clothing or not, that didn’t stop Ella’s family from purchasing a steer that night that she fell in love with. Her dad had experience raising cattle from his youth but Ella had never had exposure to that part of his life, so likely he was seeing that fire ignite in his girl.
Only issue was that their home had only 1.5 acres. So it wasn’t long before friends joined together to build them a barn for Zeus. It was just two months later before a pair of steers they got for a steal joined Zeus. Patti and Ella joked it was like going to the hospital to have a baby but having made zero preparations at home to actually bring a baby home.
Ella’s introduction into cattle life was going great, but the steers that she started with weren’t of great quality stock. However, that didn’t stop this determined young woman from winning first year showman award. That was all her dad needed to convert the barn to a wash wrack and build a bigger barn in its place. The new barn was 4x the size of the original. They immediately filled it with 8 head of Hereford cattle.
It became a family affair for Ella when she and her cousin Katie went to Jackpot shows the following year together. Ella joined 4-H and she and Katie went to Jr. Nationals as well, with 8 head of Hereford cattle. Ella looks back and realizes that was too many, but there’s a learning curve with all new things in life. She’s a ‘go big or go home’ kinda girl.
Ella’s never had as many as 8 head since that year so she can pour more time into raising the best steers possible. The show world is her life and she’s missed only 2 Jr. Nationals since she began, one to show pigs and the other because of Covid.
After showing for 3 years it was her dad’s idea to add pigs in the mix. Ella enjoyed showing pigs, but not as much as the steers. Her cousin Katie wasn’t interested in the pigs at all. Ella continued and it wasn’t long before a friend sparked her interest in lambs as well, so they were added into the show ring mix for Ella. Today she still shows all 3 and has only missed one year since she started with the lambs.
In 2019 Ella started dating a young man (she’s still dating today) who showed dairy cows, but he didn’t have a place to keep them. It didn’t take her long to bring him around to showing pigs and steers as well and she opened up her barn to him to store his dairy cow. Today they make some of their best memories together in the show ring, be it with steers, dairy cows, pigs or lambs, they are making priceless memories.
Today Ella has 2 steers and her boyfriend has one. They have 2 heifers they are selling and 4 pigs and 2 lambs. Ella knows first hand the pay off that comes from hard work and is especially appreciative of her first trainer who had a tough love approach to teaching her the craft of cattle showing. She knows her success as a showman at the Jr. National Hereford Expo (winning 3rd place and 2nd reserve steer in the nation) is directly linked to that vital early instruction she received. This dynamo currently holds two jobs, one as a server at Avery’s Maryland Grill and one in sales at a new western wear store. She has plans to attend college in the fall to pursue accounting. She told me about a school that house dorm for show kids so outside the dorm rooms were muck boots everywhere!
As Ella shared her love of showing cattle with me, I naturally assumed we’d be creating with her cattle. Unfortunately (fortunately), however, her cattle had all been sold at fair. At first I was at a loss. Cattle is Ella’s world but we had no cattle. I have so many wonderful farming clients who offered up their heads for Ella to create with, but essentially that’s like creating with someone else’s dog…just doesn’t mean the same thing as when it is your own you have poured hundreds of hours into. So instead I began to spin my wheels on how we could represent this love for Ella uniquely and voila! All the tools of her trade and just a handful of the myriad of awards she has received so she’ll always look back fondly at the years she spent of her youth in the show ring.
We closed with Ella in the water to create more fine art timeless pieces for her, like how we started in studio. I always want the casual observer to be engaged and entranced by what we create and have no idea of all the hard work that went into making the magic happen. However, I also know the hard work to make all you see possible is also what creates some amazing memories for my JDP seniors!
Ella stands out to me not only for her passion in life but the commitment to excellence as she does it. It’s clear she pours all of herself into the task at hand and has no patience for half hearted attempts at anything. In 12 years of running my studio she also stands out as 1 of only 2 seniors that have offered to help pay for their portrait selections during the view and choose. She took out her wallet and was prepared to offer up money to her mom towards the bill. Kudos Ella–your future looks very bright and that work ethic will serve you and your people incredibly well through this life!