This piece first appeared in Fur & Feather, 2 July 1970, author uncredited. It was written before the days of block entry. -Ed
Everyone knows the importance of the judge, but without his righthand man, the steward, the judge is greatly handicapped. A conscientious steward will have everything ready for the judge to begin his job and the two should work together quickly and efficiently so that the cards and prizes can be awarded without delay.
A good steward will have arrived early, at least half an hour before the judge. He will go round with the judging book, checking all the mice in the allotted classes for number in class, number arrived, straight class and duplicate class numbers, making sure that number 1 is in class 1 and also in classes 9, 24 and 50, or whatever they may be, to tally with those in the judging book. A small pencil mark against the number in class at the top of the page indicates that all is in order for the class to be judged.
He will check any missing numbers with the secretary, whether any have been delayed, have just arrived, or have been scratched. Then the judge is not in a ‘tiz-woz’ wondering where ‘135’ is when it has been waiting by the door for the past half hour in readiness for checking in.
It is a good idea to arrange the classes in numerical order so they can be put on to the judging table in straight lines instead of in a jumble so that precious minutes are not wasted in sorting out.
It is convenient for the judge if the steward has removed the excess bedding from the Maxeys and either tucked it behind the Maxey lid or left it in the appropriate travelling boxes instead of littering up the floor or trestles.
It is surprising how soon large amounts of bedding can get kicked around on the show room floor and become scattered about making the place most untidy. If, as has happened, this material is retrieved, the mouse more often than not finds a matchstick or cigarette end or even a bun case to keep him company on the journey home.
Then, of course, there is the distribution of the prize cards—quite a boring job when there are over fifty, and one has to keep checking that the mouse who won a third is not being judged in the Challenge class when all fanciers are gathered round to watch, and ‘excuse-me’s are exhausted and elbows are the best way to get to the table. This does not happen at agricultural showswhen judging is carried out with the exhibitors excluded from the marquee.
A good steward concentrates on his task—sometimes a gruelling one, but also an interesting and rewarding one, for he can gain a few hints from the judge on the exhibits. He can help the judge, secretary and other officials to ensure the smooth running of the show. He can help visitors to feel at home in the Mouse Fancy, and provide the mice with refreshment for their journey home.
I have cut out some paragraphs which covered rail stock as they don’t mean anything to today’s stewards; if you are mystified by the last sentence, that’s what it’s about. We have an easy time of it today, that’s for sure. I remember stewarding in the 1980s, after rail carriage was an option, but before block entry. The worst classes were the doe and buck classes. You had to remember where, among all the Maxeys, you took the mice from so you could put them back in the same place. I used to write the pen number on a scrap of paper and leave this where the Maxey had been, but that was only partially successful as the bits of paper got moved around, especially if there were stewards looking for mice for different classes at the same time. We were certainly kept on our toes -ED.