Sebastopol girl who fought flesh-eating bacteria happy to be back with 4H
By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
This year’s record lamb price didn’t go to Marissa Pendleton, but the 12-year-old Sebastopol girl seemed happy just to walk into the auction ring and sell her two lambs Friday at the Sonoma County Fair.
For Marissa, better known as “Missy,” the day was another step in a long road back from her June battle with flesh-eating bacteria, a fight that kept her in an Oakland hospital for nearly a month.
To get to the auction, she first had to get out of a wheelchair and begin walking, an act that she managed nearly two weeks ago. Then fluid buildup in the injured leg and concerns about infection forced her to return for a 10th surgery and another week in the hospital.
She didn’t get to come home until Monday, the day when the 4-H and FFA lambs arrived at the fairgrounds for judging and sale. And it wasn’t until the last minute that she received permission from her physical therapist to go into the ring for showmanship judging.
Her mother, Michelle Pendleton, said she felt the emotions when she watched her daughter at the judging.
“This is something she’s looked forward to the whole time she’s been in the hospital,” Michelle Pendleton said.
For Missy, who has been showing lambs for four years, saying goodbye Friday afternoon to her two lambs, Moose and Agent 0007, didn’t stir up any emotions, she said.
But she was glad she earned $6.50 and $7.50 a pound for them, respectively. And she was happy to get the chance to come to the fair and work with her animals.
“I like competing,” she said.
The crowd clapped heartily each time Missy entered the auction ring Friday. But those were hardly the only occasions for applause.
Buyers, fair officials and onlookers also gave a loud ovation when a 14-year-old price record fell and another 12-year-old Sebastopol girl received $55 a pound for her Supreme Champion lamb.
Santa Rosa companies G&G Supermarkets and meat wholesaler Velasam teamed up to pay $6,765 for the top lamb raised by Lauren Murnin, a Live Oak 4-H member.
The price per pound paid Friday surpassed the old record set in 1998 of $52 a pound paid by Petaluma Market.
“It’s amazing,” Lauren said after exiting the auction ring.
The Hillcrest Middle School seventh-grader not only had this year’s Supreme Champion, a crossbred named Bo, but her second lamb, Chance, was awarded 4-H Champion Hampshire. Chance was the fifth lamb to go into the auction ring Friday and was purchased for $15 a pound by Northern Electric.
G&G and its partners bought three of the first four lambs in the ring Friday.
It partnered with The Press Democrat to pay $19 a pound for the second animal auctioned off, the FFA Grand Champion shown by Dominic Leventini of Santa Rosa FFA. And with Petaluma Creamery it paid $11 a pound for the fourth animal, the FFA Reserve Grand Champion, shown by Cole Pruett of Petaluma FFA.
Teejay Lowe, a fair board director and member of the family that owns G&G, said his company worked hard this year to gather partners to share in the lamb purchases.
“Everybody does a little and nobody has to do a lot,” Lowe said.
Santa Rosa attorney Patrick Emory purchased the third lamb on Friday, paying $10 a pound for the 4-H Reserve Grand Champion shown by Rio Pagliaro, a Live Oak 4-H member from Sonoma.
The fair said Friday the market price for lambs was a mere $1 a pound. But bidders pay far more each year as a way of encouraging young people to raise the animals and, in the process, to learn more about agriculture.
Missy’s lamb Moose was purchased by Fallon Hills Ranch, and Agent 0007 went to the West County 4-H/FFA Boosters, who bought 10 lambs Friday with money collected at fundraisers.
Missy and her mom said a number of folks helped make her day possible. Her 16-year-old sister, Gianna, cared for the lambs while Missy was in the hospital. And another friend helped show the animals. Missy was only able to compete in showmanship.
But after Moose sold and its photo was taken, Missy didn’t hand him off to anyone else. She held his head and slowly walked him back to his pen.
Soon, classes will resume for her at Twin Hills School. She already is talking about playing softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer.
Michelle Pendleton said her daughter also is looking forward to leaving the limelight after several interviews with newspapers and Bay Area television stations.
“She wants to be a normal kid again,” her mother said.