I’m a magnet for non-paying volunteer jobs. And within those jobs, I seem to collect task after task for which I am not only severely underpaid but, as often as not, incredibly underqualified. In most cases, my only qualification is that I am semi-willing to take a shot at whatever might require a warm body and an attitude that is something less than ill-tempered.

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Freelance Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on Twitte...

One such job that I backed myself into, about a decade ago, was setting up and managing the social media accounts for the county fair. It wasn’t as though I had any aptitude whatsoever for such an undertaking, but everyone on the fair board recognized a need to take a halting step into the 21st century, and I was the fool who happened to broach the subject in a meeting. Thankfully, in recent years, as it has become more demanding, important and in need of someone in greater possession of time and a tech-savvy brain, we’ve turned most of the job over to someone with the skills and know-how to do it right. Nevertheless, I still have some oversight and access to a good camera, so I still have something to offer the project.

About that camera – just as I am no technological wizard nor social media guru, I am not a photographer. I am, however, a guy with a camera, and with modern digital cameras, there’s little need to be a skilled photographer. I don’t need to worry about preserving film to save for that perfect shot. I can pretty much fire away indiscriminately and be assured that I’ll get lucky every once in a while. Over the years, I’ve taken thousands of shots during the county fair. Most of those shots have been put on display on the fair’s social media accounts. I daresay, I continually surprise myself. Most of the pictures turn out to be a little better than “not half bad.”

My camera and I roam the fairgrounds clicking away at whatever catches my interest. The youth livestock shows tend to be where my greatest interest apparently lies, since the lion’s share of the pictures seem to be snapped at those venues. Every year when I go through the photos, the thing that most surprises me is how the vast majority of the candid people shots turn out quite well. Rarely do any of my subjects seem unhappy when they see me point and click, and the results most often bring a touch of joy to those who view them. You might think I’d find more nose pickers and scowlers in the crowd, but that is seldom the case.

As I was uploading some of last year’s steer show pictures, nearly 11 months after the fact, I couldn’t help but notice some of the people and goings on in the background of many of the photos – something I hadn’t really given much consideration to in the past. One such picture particularly caught my attention. The main subject of the photo is a girl in a purple shirt leading a red steer around the ring. In the distance, outside the ring, a petite woman can be seen with a comforting arm around the shoulders of a young man who had just exited the ring after showing his steer.


The petite, soft-spoken woman, all 5-feet-nothing of her, happened to be Tasha, one of the nicest people in all the history of people. She’s been a fixture at the fair and in the winner’s circle of many a jackpot show for the better part of two decades now, ever since the first of her three equally charming daughters was old enough to wrap her little fingers around a show stick. This year, her youngest daughter will lead her perfectly fit and fed steer around the ring of the Cassia County Fair for the last time before she heads off to college and whatever the world holds in store for her.

Tasha, her husband, Matt, and their three girls are unique and special in many ways. Ultra-competitive and nearly unbeatable when they’re at the top of their game, the family has taken home more purple ribbons from the fair than I even dare to guess. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when any of the three girls stepped into the ring and I didn’t think they were the favorite to win. Their preparation is unparalleled and their presentation impeccable. The same could be said of them in their respective professional, scholastic and athletic arenas, as well.

But despite all their many successes, that is far down the list of why I admire Tasha and her daughters. Their kindness and humility far outshine the spotlight that may temporarily shine on them. Though they’re an easy target for those who “only care about the children,” and who wish to make a rule for every imaginable scenario in order to “level the playing field,” I’ve never heard any of them utter an unkind word. They quietly go about their business and their winning ways, all the while offering help and encouragement to anyone willing to accept it.

So, in a world where the loudest and harshest voices are too often the only ones we hear, I dearly appreciate the soft, quiet voices in the background of people like Tasha – ever positive, always encouraging, never unkind.