Despite not making weight this week at the Nez Perce County Fair, Stitch is anything but a bum steer.

In fact, he’s quite cool, according to owner and Waha Wranglers 4-H Club member Victoria Lockart, 11, of Lewiston. And his nice nature is only amplified in comparison to the rather rambunctious steer he replaced, Dude. In spite of his surfer-chic name, Dude is far from cool.

“We’re probably going to eat him because he’s so crazy,” Victoria said.

Dude got booted as her fair project after a string of mishaps over the summer. The Jenifer Middle School sixth grader described the seemingly endless drama Thursday at the fair while waiting to present Stitch to a judge during the morning quality show for fat steers, the heftier counterpart to the stocker/feeder steers.

“This year was a big circus,” she said. “We didn’t know (Dude) was going to be as wild as he was.”

For starters, he dragged her cousin Cole Lockart through his pen last spring. But Cole is a wrestler and was able to bring Dude under control. For a brief time, that is.

“He calmed him down and we got him tied up in the shed,” Victoria said. “But then he just went bonkers.”

They tried moving him to another post, but Cole got pinned by Dude’s halter chain. He escaped unhurt, but the precedent of a rowdy steer had been set. Dude liked to charge at people, and in the saga’s next episode, he broke his lead and jumped on Victoria’s mom, Kary Lockart, leaving a deep scratch on her back.

“It was crazy,” she said. “She still has a scar from it.”

The last straw came when Dude cut his leg on a piece of tin sheeting. It ended up taking months to heal, and also meant he was out of the running for the fair. But that’s when Stitch stepped in. The Lockarts bought him from local Black Angus rancher Ron Van Buren as a back-up, so Victoria didn’t have to give up on this year’s fair aspirations.

She said that even though they couldn’t have had more different temperaments, the two steers got along just fine.

“Stitch’s best friend was Dude,” she said, adding that Dude totally calmed down around his buddy. “It was really, really nice.”

The story’s latest chapter unfolded this week. And at the weigh-in Wednesday, it felt far more like a tragedy than a comedy to Victoria.

The hefty requirement for fat steers tripped up Lockart and three other entrants (out of about 70) whose projects fell short of the 1,050-1,500-pound weight range expected in the category. Lockart said it was devastating after a long, hot summer of hard work to see Stitch step on the scale and fall a scant 15 pounds short of making the minimum weight.

“I cried,” she said. “I was that upset. I didn’t go back to school that day. Overall, I feel like this is one of the worst years. But he did really well at home, even though he didn’t make weight.”

But Victoria is far from discouraged. She had a great experience with her first steer, America, who earned her a grand champion ribbon in showmanship. In 2019, a steer named Jackson gave her a little trouble, but ended up with a blue ribbon. So next year is still a go for a brand new steer project.

Finding that ability to persevere is central to what 4-H teaches kids, said Kelli Hall, one of Victoria’s club leaders.

“Stuff happens within a project,” Hall said. “Just like in real life. I really admire her in our club because she has a good attitude throughout it all. And when you see all the kids learning and growing and being good humans, watching them band together is pretty awesome.”

Kary Lockart and her husband, James Lockart, couldn’t agree more.

“It’s just a life lesson that she will never stop learning,” Kary said. “If she sticks with it, she’ll be a citizen who will be able to function without her parents’ support. Even though we’re hard on her.”

James Lockart didn’t do 4-H as a kid like his wife did, but he’s completely bought into the experience.

“It’s a good thing for the kids,” he said. “It teaches them responsibility, and they’ve got to pay attention to what they’re doing, or else they have this problem. They don’t make weight, or they go over weight.”

Lockart was still able to show her steer, but the weight issue meant that Stitch wasn’t eligible for a grand champion ribbon. He also can’t be included in the livestock auction at the end of the fair. But they can still sell him on the private market, and they were even looking to hook up with a possible buyer Thursday.

The fair continues today through Sunday at the fairgrounds in the Lewiston Orchards.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.