Mallory Trosper first met Justin McBee in 1999 when they were both showing calves at a national Junior Angus Show.
“We’ve been good friends and then we started seeing each other last summer and our families became friends,” Mallory says.
Last August, Justin bought a calf with the intent of raising it for show at this year’s Boone County Fair. But on Thanksgiving, the 18-year-old MU freshman’s life was cut short in an automobile accident in Randolph County in November.
“The weekend before Justin passed away, we talked together about the steer,” Mallory says. “It was a calf at that time.”
On Thursday morning, the Cow Palace at the Boone County Fairground was a beehive of parents and children preparing their animals for the evening steer show. Mallory and Joy McBee, Justin’s mother, were among them, cleaning and brushing Justin’s calf, which has grown into a 1,075-pound steer.
“He wanted to be here today,” Mallory says. “Since he’s gone, his parents asked me to show his steer.”
Mallory, who is 17 and has been raising cows since she was 9, left her own steer at home. “I wanted to show Justin’s,” she says.
The mooing of livestock interrupts the sound of music from a nearby tent as children proudly lead their calves and steers, getting help from parents whenever they have difficulties.
A sign hanging in the Cow Palace bears the Justin’s steer’s name: Juice.
“It’s Justin’s nickname since he was a child,” Joy McBee says.
McBee and Mallory put the final touches on Juice for the show. “It’s a hard work,” Mallory says, “but Justin loved doing that and had fun doing it.”
Mallory, a senior from Hamilton near Chillicothe, holds her blond hair with a black ribbon that fits with her black sweater and a black bracelet with Justin’s initials. “It reminds me of him so that I can always feel he’s with me,” she says, not hiding her tears.
Both Mallory and McBee wear a rubber band on their right wrists — just as Justin used to do. “He never told anyone about the reason he did that,” McBee says. “It’s his own secret that is gone with him.”
Her husband, Jerry McBee, had yet to arrive at the fairground. He was busy constructing a cabin on the family’s farmland near Clark in Justin’s memory.
Since Justin’s death, the McBees thought about forming a club to honor their son, which aims “to fulfill his dreams and continue his legacy of helping youth learn showmanship and grooming skills.”
The Juice Club was started after a meeting that Joy and Jerry McBee held with some relatives and friends of Justin as well as others in the cattle industry. “Justin had always wanted to share what he learned with other kids in the county 4-H,” Joy McBee says.
Today, the McBees intend to auction Justin’s steer at the fair and donate the money to the Juice Club. The club plans to give away five heifers every year to kids involved in 4-H or FFA.
Mallory stares at the memorial photo table that shows Justin growing from a kid attending the Boone County Fair to a young man. Together, they shared a love for MU, basketball and showing animals. “I learned many things from my relationship with Justin,” Mallory says. “He taught me how to help people.
“He would do anything for you — even if you’re not his friend,” she says. “He has always been loyal to his family and friends. I know he’ll be extremely proud of my show today. It’s our way to keep kids remembering him.”