MONMOUTH — The Robinsons have been to three fairs this season, and 9-year-old Dionica Robinson still doesn’t know what it feels like to lose to her mother.

“She’s been beating me all season,” Amanda Robinson said Thursday while holding her small steers outside the Monmouth Fairgrounds towing ring.

Amanda’s husband, Darrell Robinson, entered the ring with his daughter, but it’s Dionica who did all the work, cajoling her small team of yearling steer forward against the 350-pound drag.

Dionica’s team finished with a distance of 384 feet, 9 inches.

It’s a good showing, but well within reach for Amanda.

“Let’s see if we can beat your sister,” Amanda said to her daughter, 5-year-old Amarell, as the gate opened for her to enter the ring.

Amanda, limping slightly in a walking cast, bumped and prodded her steers onward. Three minutes later, it was over. Amanda won with a distance of 388 feet, 6 inches.

“She’ll be second,” Darrell said, looking at Dionica.

The steers, Ace and Edgar, were off track from the beginning, Dionica said while patting them affectionately.

“Edgar went off this way and Ace was way back,” she said.

The Robinsons, of Chesterville, are among hundreds from across the region who will turn up at Monmouth Fair this week to pull a weighted sled or watch as others do.

The fair’s slogan, “A little fair with a lotta of pull,” happens to be an honest assessment. Regardless of when you arrive at the fair, which runs through Saturday, you are likely to find an animal or a tractor testing its limits.

While friendships are hallmark of pulling community, pulling has always been a family affair for Darrell Robinson.

“I’m related to 20 people here anyway,” Robinson said.

Robinson, whose cattle have pulled at nearly every Monmouth Fair for the past 20 years, said he grew up leading steers in the towing ring or in the woods hauling logs.

Even the yoke Dionica uses on her steers brings back memories for Darrell.

“My grandfather made that yoke for me when I was 5,” he said.

Robinson’s grandfather, Donald Quirrion, 79, of Jay, planned to pull in the over-3,500-pound class at Monmouth.

“He set a goal of pulling when he was 80,” Robinson said. “He has to pull at least once next year.”

Darrell and Amanda are passing the tradition along to their children. Amarell is already at ease around the steers, which can weigh as much as the family car. Dionica is primarily responsible for working out her team, usually five or six days a week.

“She works them seven times out of eight,” Darrell said.

The commitment to the animals not only eats up time; recently it has taken a toll on Amanda’s body as well. She has worn a walking cast since breaking her foot while helping Darrell split wood.

“She’s had it on for six weeks, but she’s been working (the steers) so it’s not healing as fast,” Darrell said. “She has to wear it for another four weeks.”

Darrell, a logger, occasionally uses steers in his work, but most of the time it is just a hobby. It can be an expensive hobby, between grain and fuel used to take the animals to pulling events.

“I don’t know,” he laughed when asked why his family continues in the sport. “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

Darrell, surrounded by friends he has made over the years, finally settles on the camaraderie. “It’s an excuse to go and see everybody,” he said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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