It's a bond often meant to be broken, that between 4-H'ers and their animal.
Kids give early morning feedings and late-night water refills. They trim coats, go on walks and learn what touch, what phrase will calm their animal to act just right before the judges.
And then auction day comes, as it did Monday afternoon at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Months, even years of work with an animal comes to an end at the sound of rapid-fire, quick-tongued negotiating and an eventual bid in the hundreds, if not thousands.
The auction closed out the 2013 Allen County Fair. It generated about $115,000 with the sale of 172 items, auction co-chair Randy Lewis said. Many of the sales were to members of the business community, volunteer Chris Kendall said.
“It basically rewards the kids for their hard work,” Kendall said.
The auction moved from animal to animal quickly, though it lasted for hours. Youth and teens paraded their livestock before the nearly full Show Barn hoping to secure a large bid.
An eight-year 4-H veteran, Grant Hood, 16, has seen his share of auctions. At Heritage Junior-Senior High School, he's known as the kid who takes 4-H too seriously, he said.
Showing his animals and building friendships is a source of pride for Hood.
“I love helping the younger members,” he said. “I like being the guy people know, the one they ask for advice.”
Grant showed his Nubian dairy goat, Carl. The 5-month-old is a screamer, mom Heidi Hood said. Carl confirmed with gusto as Grant pulled him away from the Show Barn. He sold for $150.
As for Carl, the goodbye will likely be quick and tearless, Grant said.
“I've been doing this for a while,” he said. “I don't get too terribly attached. I think being a guy helps with that.”
Though the fair is just six days long, 4-H is more of a year-round mentality for the Hoods. The family's living room is painted a shamrock green — 4-H green to be specific. It's there that Grant crafts, creates and assembles his various 4-H projects for exhibition. This year's work earned him the distinction of Honor Achiever.
“It's a huge part of what we do,” Heidi said. “We try and put everything into a 4-H perspective.”
This year, Grant built a model of his 1947 Model A John Deere tractor out of pop cans. He'll use some of his auction earnings to continue to rehab the real-life tractor.
One boy, Connor Rekeweg, 9, of Woodburn will split his earnings from his first 4-H fair.
“Twenty-five percent of my money is going to Riley,” Rekeweg said, speaking to a man twice his height waiting in line for concessions.
His father, Mark A. Rekeweg, said when he and his wife told Connor he would need to donate a quarter to charity, the choice was clear.
Connor will soon undergo surgery on his only kidney. He's spent time at Riley Hospital for Children, and while he's not receiving his new surgery there, he knew it was good home for the money. The rest of his earnings will go into savings and reinvestment for next year's fair.
But that's down the road. On that afternoon, that final fair day, he was busy.
Connor was off, running, to catch his 4-H friends in the few hours they had left to play.