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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Whole Lotta Bull in Jackson County, Fla

It was a bit like watching a beauty pageant or fashion show. The contestants nervously paced back and forth in the waiting area which was hidden behind the staging area. I could see a head poke out behind the wall, eyes wandering and trying to figure out what was going on.

One by one they were brought out and comments were made about their shiny black coats and "fine thighs." My favorite line of the afternoon was, "Number 16 is an example of up and coming Angus." Yes, it was a true meat market. The University of Florida's Bull Test Auction, to be exact.

Yesterday's news clips caught my eye, the "Jackson County Floridian" headline read, "Bull test sale expected to draw hundreds." Normally, I would not give up a Saturday of apartment cleaning, laundry and writing to attend a cattle auction. I was intrigued with the article stating that the Jackson County Tourist Development Council (TDC) funded a grant application for the sale! $4,500 - to be used to drive tourists to fill motel rooms and restaurants during this weekend.

Having heard many organizations' pleas for TDC grant funds from my previous job, I was curious how much of a tourism event this was. So, I hopped into my Saturn Ion and headed to Greenwood, Fla, about an hour northwest of Tallahassee. After crossing into the Central Time Zone, the banjos of "Deliverance" began to play.

The Florida back roads remind me of Idaho and Utah. Slightly rolling hills, lots of open space and agriculture - cotton, peanuts and sugar cane. An unseasonably warm day, folks were sitting on their couches enjoying the afternoon - on their porches - with rifles propped at their sides. A mud-covered family shared laughs at gas station, refueling their ATVs. God bless America!

I pulled into the University of Florida's bull testing facility and realized I would stick out like a sore thumb. First, mine was about the only non-pick-up truck. Second, I was not wearing a hat but was wearing pink sandals. But, they were friendly folks when I arrived. After all, I was a tourist.

I'd never been to a livestock auction before. The callers were entertaining, although I really had no idea what they were saying. The spotters on the floor were in charge of finding the bidders and giving a screech when another bid was placed. I swatted a fly (true, these type of events attract a lot of flies) which meant I submitted a bid of $1,000 for beef. Luckily, I was out bid and stood still as possible for the rest of my time there.

I'm not sure how many people in the audience were "tourists." Granted, the stands were full and it was standing room only. While I walked back to my car, which was surrounded by pick-up trucks, I noticed a handful of out-of-state plates. Wonder if these were families on their way to Disney and decided to take a detour to the real Florida?

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