In just two years 11 year old Tyrone Taylor of Newton, who dreams of playing professional football, has become one of the top sheep exhibitors of the Harvey County Fair — and he has taken a difficult and unique path to get there.
“This is where he shines,” said his “surrogate grandmother” Deb Dreier. “He plays football and basketball, but he really shines at this.”
His star was shining very brightly Monday at the fair — as with a plethora of ribbons dangling from his pocket he showed five different sheep in several different classes at the fair. He showed two champions, a reserve champion and a supreme champion before his day was over.
He picked up a grand champion award last year.
“It's exciting,” Taylor said.
He spends every day in the family barn, tending to more than 400 sheep of all ages. He is in charge of all the “bottle lambs” — lambs that must be fed by bottle because either their mother does not produce milk, their mother is gone or a host of other challenges that means they need fed by other means.
Dreier said everyday Taylor works with his sheep, taking them from the time they are born through showing at the fair.
“He feeds them, exercises them everyday and teaches them how to show,” Dreier said. “He has learned responsibility.”
Taylor didn't grow up in rural Newton. Now a student at Hesston schools, he has led a challenging life. The first time he spent time with Galen and Deb Dreier he was just a baby — his family was homeless with no place to go.
About 2 ½ years ago Taylor's mom called again, wanting to find a place for him and his sister out of Wichita. She, apparently, is living in rough part of the city and wanted to get her children away from violence.
The Dreiers volunteered. Tyrone got involved with the sheep, and with 4-H.
“4-H has been wonderful,” Deb Dreier told The Kansan.
She said he's learned responsibility, and started his very own college fund. Last year he won about $1,000 in premiums from 4-H competition — when he had the cash in hand Galen took him to the bank to start a savings account.
Taylor said he wants to attend K-State. His dream is to play football there, and maybe head off to the pros.
For now, however, he tends his flock and shows his sheep — quite successfully.
“It takes work, but is fun too,” Taylor said. “I bring the ones that look good and have lots of muscle on them.”