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A tearful goodbye to a blind steer at the Fort Worth Stock Show

Special to the Star-Telegram

Kendyll Williams spent a final moment with Oatmeal before he was taken to the transport trailers at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
Kendyll Williams spent a final moment with Oatmeal before he was taken to the transport trailers at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Special to the Star-Telegram

Saying goodbye was not easy.

This steer was special because it was born blind and was not given much of a chance to succeed.

But Kendyll Williams and her family saw something in the steer.

“I heard from the family who had him that something was wrong, and he’d never work out,” said Kendyll, 13, of Huntsville. “They said that being blind meant he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, that he would get hurt.”

Kendyll and her family took a chance on the steer named Oatmeal. On Saturday it paid off when she sold the European crossbred for more than $8,000 in the Fort Worth Stock Show’s Sale of Champions.

Those who learned about Kendyll and Oatmeal said they had never heard anything like it.

This is the first time in 44 years that I’ve seen it.

Charlie Geren, the Stock Show’s vice president

“This is the first time in 44 years that I’ve seen it,” said state Rep. Charlie Geren, the Stock Show’s vice president.

Oatmeal was diagnosed with inoperable cataracts that were so thick he likely could only detect light and dark shapes, family members said.

The process to realize that potential took a lot of love and patience, said Lyle Williams, Kendyll’s dad.

“Everyone said Kendyll would never be able to halter break him,” Lyle Williams said. “Normally, it only takes a couple of days to halter break. Oatmeal took a couple of months.”

Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Junior Sale of Champions 2016

Oatmeal was diagnosed with inoperable cataracts that were so thick he likely could only detect light and dark shapes.

Kendyll addressed every challenge that came with Oatmeal the same way.

“I’d go to his stall every day and talk to him,” she said. “You can’t be rough with him. He doesn’t respond well to roughness. One day, it just clicked. I started gaining his trust.”

Alicia Mazoch of Houston said she’s still amazed by how close her granddaughter and Oatmeal became.

“I don’t know what she says to him, but he responds to her like no other steer I’ve seen,” Mazoch said. “When he hears her voice, or even just smells her, you can see his whole body just relax.”

Lyle Williams said Oatmeal has “an unbelievably keen sense of smell and hearing. He’ll follow his nose to food, and to his pen in the barn.”

Though especially close to Oatmeal, Kendyll knew the steer would eventually be sold and trucked away as 964 pounds of prime beef.

In the hours before Oatmeal’s turn came up in Saturday’s sale, Kendyll was quietly reflective. She said her steer’s name came from a childhood toy she passed down to her brother, 21-month-old Klipper.

“I had this little stuffed cow when I was a kid,” she said. “Its name was Oatmeal. When I gave it to my brother, I needed another Oatmeal.”

I’d go to his stall every day and talk to him.

Kendyll Williams, talking about her steer Oatmeal

Tears filled her eyes.

“I’ll be OK,” she told her mom.

After being sold, Kendyll and Oatmeal posed for a picture with his buyers and then she said goodbye.

“She hugged him and kissed him on top of the head,” Mazoch said.

But Kendyll was worried that Oatmeal would be alone, that he wouldn’t know anyone and he’d get hurt getting to the trailer. Lyle Williams asked the Stock Show staffer charged with leading the livestock to the transport trailers if he could take Oatmeal around a corner himself.

Soon, he was gone.

“This has affected the whole family,” Mazoch said. “... She’s always gotten close to the animals she shows, but she never got this close before.”

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