Stock Show Workers Dedicated for Decades

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is already past the half-way point in 2015.

Thousands of livestock have already come and gone, all guided by a team of thousands. A team that has some members who've worked at the stock show for decades.

From the show rings to the barns full of cattle. The front entrances to the feed warehouse. It's not easy finding a rookie stock show worker.

"Fifty-eight years working down through this stuff," said Harry Smith, as he walked beneath the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum stands on Wednesday.

On the other hand, for Smith, the word veteran probably doesn't cut it.

"They tell me I'm legendary now out here, I've been here so long," Smith joked. "I've only missed three of them."

Now more of a free floating ambassador, Smith ran the horse department for years, since the early 1960s, but his first stock show, as a kid, was in 1936 before the show moved to the Will Rogers Complex. Of course, Smith is by far not the only worker to put in decades of service.

In fact, year after year, the 2,000-plus workers, paid and volunteer, who keep the show and tradition running smoothly return to work. Smith, for years, used his vacation from his railroad job to work at the show. Others have done the same thing, like Bill Stiles, the feed warehouse department manager who's on his 46th stock show.

"I've had mostly the same crew for over 16 years, they do it because they love the Fort Worth Stock Show," Stiles said. "We are tradition."

"It has something that just grabs you and holds on to you and you just have to come back," Smith said.

"It's actually for the kids, we come out here for the kids," Stiles said.

Which makes the large village that runs the show for 23 days, more of a family than anything else. A family that wouldn't miss the show for anything, not even personal milestones.

On Tuesday, a group of friends gathered to celebrate Smith's 90th birthday. Smith hasn't missed a show since 1946, having served in the Army in 1944-45 and there being no stock show in 1943. And Smith hopes to continue that streak in 2016 and beyond.

"If I make it, I'm going to be out here on my 100th," Harry said, with a laugh.

And whether you're showing a horse for a chance at a ribbon or hauling feed for a paycheck, the stock show means something to everyone at Will Rogers and people of all ages. For Harry Smith, it's a chance to see the generations of Stock Show families he's grown accustom to seeing.

"That's the thing that gives me great pleasure and a sense of good feeling," Smith said. "I love it and I don't want to miss it for anything. I'm looking forward to next year already."

This year's Fort Worth Stock Show ends on February 7.

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