Tyler Tomorrow – Shiloh Smith: From Cancer to 4-H Champion

by Robert Marlin

At the age of fourteen, Shiloh Smith has gone through many changes in her young life beginning with a cancer diagnosis twelve and a half years ago. At the age of two and a half, doctors discovered a Wilms tumor on the toddler’s kidney. Treated at Children’s Hospital in Dallas, Shiloh was given chemo treatments in an effort to get rid of the tumor. For a year, she was in treatment that ultimately included removal of the affected kidney. She is cancer-free now but will go for checkups once a year for the rest of her life. Today, eleven years later, Shiloh is looking forward to starting high school as a freshman next fall, attending Lindale High School.

As a six-year-old, Shiloh graced the cover of the June/July 2015 of TYLER TODAY Magazine when she was asked to be the Li’l Wrangler for that year’s Tyler Cattle Barons’ Gala. “Being the Li’l Wrangler was so much fun,” Shiloh recalls. “For the photo shoot, I had a makeover,” she says with a slight giggle. “Being on the cover was like being a celebrity, at least for a little while!” 

However, the current passion for Shiloh is her participation with 4-H and showing at livestock shows. It is something she first got interested in doing when she was four. That was the year she showed a lamb at the Lindale FFA. She has always loved animals and became seriously involved during the past two years after her older brother introduced the idea. Skyler Shively is an extension agent for Smith County. His wife, Morgan, teaches at Chapel Hill High School and has helped Shiloh in preparing for showings. Shiloh’s mother, Amy Shively, is also one of the five extensions agents for Smith County. And Shiloh has a sister, Shekinah, who also showed when she was in high school. “My sister was not into it like our brother, but she did well. She had raised two lambs and won two belt buckles,” Shiloh says. 

So, you might say that Shiloh had no choice but to get involved with 4-H and raising livestock because her family is so connected to the agricultural life of Smith County. Shiloh is a member of 4-H and served as president of her school’s chapter this year. Last year she participated in a calf scramble at the San Antonio Livestock Show. For those who may not know what a calf scramble is, it is an event that takes place at most livestock shows. A group of kids, twenty-six or so, gather at one side of the arena. Then, thirteen or so calves are let loose. Each of the kids participating are given a halter, and when the calves are released, the kids scramble (hence the name “calf scramble”) to catch one. When they get the calf haltered, they then lead, pull, or drag the calf across to the finish line across the arena. Each participant in the scramble that manages to get to the finish line with their calf receives a certificate entitling them to purchase the animal. Shiloh captured a calf and received her certificate to purchase the breed of her choice. She chose a short-horned heifer. She plans to start a herd of her own by breeding Genesis (the name Shiloh chose, the first book of the Bible, because it means “the beginning” and she will be the beginning of Shiloh’s herd). 

Genesis is now a year old and will be bred, in the next two or three months. “One of the things you try to do when you are in a calf scramble, is to pick the breed you are looking for and go after that particular calf. I was lucky to get Genesis. She is exactly what I was hoping to breed,” Shiloh says.

Aside from winning a calf in the scramble, Shiloh has had other successes participating in livestock shows during the past two years. She won six buckles and a banner, so far. The buckles she was awarded include two for Public Speaking, one for Best Breed, one for Showmanship, and four for Grand Champion Livestock Breed. 

“It takes a lot of time and commitment. You have to raise the lamb or calf; and that means getting up early every day to groom and feed them. You can’t skip a day or take time because those animals are your responsibility, which I take very seriously,” says Shiloh.

She also points out that showing at livestock shows requires a lot of travel. “You have to have a vehicle to travel to the shows, and you have to be able to pull a trailer with the animal in it. I am grateful to have a brother and sister-in-law  who understand that and are  willing to get us to the shows.”

The shows take place throughout the year. In the past couple of years, Shiloh has attended livestock shows in Lindale, Bullard, San Antonio, the Smith County Junior Livestock Show and the Cross Brand Cowboy Church in Tyler. “This next year, I hope to be able to go to more of the major shows. Those include shows at the East Texas State Fair, shows at the State Fair in Dallas, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the San Antonio Livestock Show. There are some smaller shows I hope to attend as well. This summer I hope to go to the Aggie Lamb Camp. I’m looking for a lamb to show right now,” she says. 

As the school year ends, Shiloh is preparing for the Red, White and Moo show that will take place in July in Henderson. “When you are involved in showing livestock, you have to expect to be busy almost every weekend. As I said before, it takes a lot of commitment.”

With all the time spent taking care of the animals and preparing for and attending shows most weekends, it is amazing that Shiloh manages to maintain a straight A average at school. But she does. Asked what her favorite school subject is, without hesitation Shiloh said, “Math!” When she starts as a high school freshman next fall, she plans to take ag course for electives. Although she enjoys singing, and sings regularly with the choir and the Select Choir at Green Acres Baptist Church, she doesn’t feel like she can devote any time to choir at school. When asked if a boyfriend takes any of her spare time, Shiloh laughed, “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

When she eventually graduates from high school, which seems a long way off right now, Shiloh says she wants to go to either Baylor or Texas A&M. “I would like to become a veterinarian. I’d also like to help out with FFA and maybe go to work at A&M. I want to be able to help people take care of their animals. Animals get sick, too. I want to help them the way doctors helped me when I was sick. Being a vet is the best way I can help animals who need to be treated and that is my goal.”