Steered toward success

Sisters Mylee and Marlee Miller talk about the challenges of showing a steer as they prepare for the Allen County Fair.

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July 20, 2021 - 9:19 AM

Marlee, left, and Mylee Miller show off their steers they will enter in this week’s Allen County Fair. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

HUMBOLDT — There’s a sense of accomplishment in getting a 1,200-pound animal to obey your every command.

It wasn’t always that way, sisters Mylee and Marlee Miller explained, as they discussed the steers they will show at the upcoming Allen County Fair.

It’s old hat for Marlee, 15, who is entering a steer for the fourth straight year. But for Mylee, 12, this year’s fair is the first time she’s worked with a bovine.

“It’s not that they’re mean, or scared,” Mylee said. “They’re just stubborn sometimes.”

The sisters are members of Pals 4-H and have high hopes for purple ribbons — perhaps a grand champion — for their steer or arts and crafts entries.

“The closest I’ve gotten was a reserve champion pig one year,” Marlee said.

They’ve been around animals pretty much all their lives.

Still, Marlee admitted to being scared around them in her first years of 4-H. 

“I was scared to touch them,” she said.

So the first few years usually meant working with smaller animals — goats in particular.

“The goats were difficult,” Marlee chuckled. “They were the stubborn ones.”

So what changed for the younger sister?

“All my cousins have entered steers in the past,” she noted. “I figured if they could do it, I could reach that goal.”

There was little trepidation in November, when the sisters began working with their steers on a daily basis.

“I just jumped right in,” Mylee laughed. “They’d be a little stubborn, but as soon as they learned to start trusting us, they’ve gotten a lot better.”

The sisters help the animals overcome any sort of anxiety by working with them, usually an hour or longer each morning, despite having several other things on their plate. (Both are just now wrapping up a busy summer softball schedule.)

Mylee’s softball season concluded earlier this month; Marlee’s on Saturday, freeing up valuable time in the run-up to the fair.

“We work with them pretty much every day we can,” Marlee said. 

This year the siblings had a bit of an advantage, in that the steers already had been handled and trained by their breeders when the Millers purchased the animals in October.

“It definitely makes a big difference,” Marlee said. We’re thankful for the extra head start.”

ON TOP OF their steers, both Mylee and Marlee will enter a pair of arts and crafts projects — an ornamental door hanger,and a key chain.

The idea stemmed from a business project at Humboldt High School last year. Marlee will be a sophomore at HHS in the fall; Mylee is entering the seventh grade at Humboldt Middle School.

And, just like working with their animals, both Mylee and Marlee are more than willing to work together and help out if needed.

“We’re competitive with other people, but not with each other,” Mylee said.

BOTH WILL SELL their steers at Sunday’s 4-H auction, traditionally an emotional night for 4-H’ers young and old. 

The Millers are no different.

“Sale night is always tough,” Marlee said. “But that’s just how it works. Steers are definitely harder to sell than the other animals, because we have them longer and work with them more.”

Marlee’s steer, Hoss, was named by the breeder. Marlee named her steer Leonard, after the breeder. “We try to name them after the people we got them from,” Mylee said. “You definitely get attached, but you know going in you’re going to have to sell the animal.”

AFTER a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic limited the activities at the fair, the Millers are eager to see a sense of normalcy return to the fairgrounds this week. 

Of particular interest is the Bull Bash, a night filled with wild bull riding, the event replacing the traditional rodeo.

“I enjoy being out in that environment,” Mylee said. “You learn new things every time.”

“I just like being out there with all the people,” Marlee said. “It was definitely weird last year, but it’ll be nice seeing more people out there again.”

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