As the Delaware County Free Fair gets underway this week, one Grove senior is preparing for her last fall livestock show.
For Mia McCool, showing at the fair is something that's been part of her life since she joined the Grove FFA chapter during her eighth grade year.
Initially, she started her FFA career wanting to know more about showing horses. Then a friend, Haley Dozier, introduced her to showing goats.
The rest, well, is history.
McCool, along with her younger sister Maci, now breed and show their own line of boar, or market goats.
"I love how each has their own personality," McCool said with a laugh. "They are all different in their own way.
"With each goat, there's always a different way to show the animal."
This week, McCool plans to exhibit two of her show animals: Karve and O'Malley, both named for characters on her favorite show Grey's Anatomy.
"It's my all time, go to show," McCool said. "I want to work in the medical field someday, which got me started watching Grey's Anatomy."
How it all began
McCool got her first doe, Annie, during her eighth grade year.
"I loved that doe," McCool said, adding that Annie became the basis of her goat herd.
"For me, being able to reproduce and breed my own livestock is phenomenal," McCool said. "While it takes skills, anyone can show goats.
"To be able to raise one and show it and watch it place really high, it's a surreal moment for our family."
Last week, Maci McCool, a member of the Fairland 4-H Club, won the reserve division one for her weathered goat.
McCool said she typically breeds two does each year, which results in up to four kids.
She is raising her first buck kid, which will join the herd as part of the breeding program next year.
McCool said she takes pleasure in watching animals she raised walk in the show ring.
"It's a humbling environment," McCool said. "Everyone is there to have fun and enjoy each other's company.
"It's not so much about the competition, and more about having fun."
McCool said she's learned many lessons about responsibility and patience during her FFA years.
"It takes time to achieve things," McCool said. "I've learned to set goals for myself."
McCool said she tries to remember to live out her life verse, Luke 1:37, in everything she does. That verse, says "nothing shall be impossible with God."
"I love knowing that I can put my mind on something and I can accomplish it," McCool said. "No matter if you win or lose, I've also learned to always be humble."
As a senior exhibitor, McCool said she knows younger exhibitors are watching and learning from her actions.
"It makes me always want to be joyful, because I know they are watching every move I make," McCool said. "I also want to show that it's ok to make mistakes, and that you can learn from it."
Her advice to the younger students: "take it all in, because it goes by really fast."
"I don't know where I would be without showing goats and FFA," McCool said. "I've learned responsibility, respect and to overall be joyful."
During the fair, she's looking forward to spending time with her family and friends, and getting her goats ready for the ring.
"The fair shows us that hard work does pay off," McCool said. "I love the diversity of it. FFA is much more than just plows, cows and sows.
"It's not teaching us to be future farmers, as much as it is teaching us to be future leaders of America."
McCool, the daughter of Karla and Jeffrey Scott McCool, hopes to attend Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She plans to pursue a medical degree, with the potential of becoming a physician's assistant.