He's all 'ag guy'
CHRISTY SWIFTOKEECHOBEE - Kids are a big part of Dudley Kirton's life, both his own and those in the community.
Published: August 8, 2012
Published: August 8, 2012
Whether it's taking regular trips to Port St. Lucie for his son's batting practice, driving a boy to a cattle show so his injured mother wouldn't have to travel or advocating for youth on county fair committees, this former president of the Okeechobee Cattlemen's Association dedicates a lot of hours to the youngest generation.
"I just think every kid deserves an opportunity to enjoy his childhood and hopefully learn something out of it," said Kirton, who grew up on a ranch in Okeechobee.
He founded Kirton Cattle and Sod and Kirton Trailer Sales, and also owns cattle in Port Myakka. This self-employed, all around "ag guy" said he does a little bit of everything.
"I sell any kind of trailer, I sell hydraulic cattle chutes, I peddle a few cattle."
His brother has taken over most of the sod business, but Kirton helps him with big jobs once in awhile. "I kind of do whatever you can to make a dollar at," he remarked.
The freedom he enjoys running his own businesses is what allows Kirton to take 15-year-old Bailey and 12-year-old Shelby to cattle shows all over the state.
It's what his dad did with him, and he loves passing on those memories, even if his children don't end up in an agriculture-related career.
"My son thinks he might take over my wife's physical therapy business," said Kirton.
Kirton is chairman of the rodeo committee for the cattleman's association and "still rodeos a little bit." He is also on the board of directors for the South Florida Fair, in charge of the steer show.
He's been on the livestock committee in Okeechobee so long he doesn't even remember how many years it's been (at least eight).
"We run the youth steer and hog and heifer show always the second full weekend in March," said Kirton. "It's a really big week. It starts the week after the Okeechobee cattlemen's spring rodeo.
"That same night we're getting ready for the livestock show."
And when Kirton is involved in a youth livestock show, he takes it seriously.
"I never want to see a limit," explained Kirton.
He makes sure no child who wants to show an animal is turned away because of number limits on entries or other factors. In fact, a few kids wanted to show goats and lambs, so the committee added those animals last year.
Show organizers also give out lots of buckles and awards so that competitors have plenty of opportunities to succeed.
"I hate to see when you go to a lot of these other shows, they aren't as good as they should be. It's not the adults' fault. People won't look outside the box or reach out to make it better. At our county fair and livestock show, we're always trying to make it better for the kids," Kirton said.
That includes bringing in livestock judges who don't just place animals, but give good, solid explanations for their decisions.
"Those kids, if they'll sit there and absorb it a little, they are going to learn something. It's little things like that that make a big difference," he added.
Kirton is also arena director for the annual Day of the American Cowboy ranch rodeo at the end of July. He makes sure the two-day event runs smoothly and that it's fun and fast-paced for the audience. "It's just a good time," said Kirton.