Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Celebrating Wheat

Judge: vt 1: to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises; 2: to sit in judgment on: TRY; 3: to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation; 4: GOVERN, RULE, used of a Hebrew tribal leader; 5: to form an estimate or evaluation of; 6: to hold as an opinion: GUESS, THINK (I ~ she knew what she was doing) vi 1: to form an opinion; 2: to decide as a judge.

That's what my handy-dandy Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has to say about the word judge, including the capitalized words, squiggles and italics.

Of course, it just wouldn't do to argue with the king of dictionaries. But I do have a few things to add to the list when considering the word JUDGE: nervous stomach, chewed fingernails, painful pondering, questioning why I ever say "Yes" when asked to judge anything.

I was the photography judge at the state 4-H Wheat Show last Friday in Larned.

I know why I said yes. The person asking in this case was our Stafford County extension agent Glenn Newdigger. Since I sincerely appreciate all he did for my kids when they were in 4-H and all he continues to do for the county, it was a little tough to tell him no.

He originally asked me to judge cookies. Through circumstances beyond his control, the request then evolved. What they really needed was a photography judge.

I love photography. I do quite a bit of photography. I used to be our 4-H club's photography leader. But I have never judged photography. In the spirit of full disclosure, I told this to the state 4-H guy in charge of the wheat show.

I gave him my blog address and told him that if he looked at my photography and decided I wasn't the person for the job, there would be no hard feelings whatsoever.

Either he thought the photos were OK or he was really desperate. At any rate, I was the photography judge. (I keep going back to Webster's definition, GUESS, THINK: I ~ she knew what she was doing.)

Anyway, as it turned out, Jill was home for the weekend and served as my able assistant. She was sad about the switch from cookies to photography. As a prize-winning 4-H cook, she thought it would be a lot more fun to nibble tasty cookies (and she figured she knew a little something about purple-ribbon cookies.)

But she got over it and was my recording secretary as I moved through the 20-plus photo entries.

Isn't it great when the words you've said to your kids come drifting back to you out of their grown-up mouths?!

"Mom, you've always said that judging is one person's opinion on one day. It will be fine."

Yes, Jill. Yes, I did say that. And my parents said it every time I sang in front of a festival judge in junior high and high school.

I've always been better at giving advice than taking it. I didn't particularly want people looking at my selections and saying, "Man, I wouldn't have chosen that." (I know people do that because I've said it more than once. I've helped 4-H photography judges throughout the years, and I've sometimes been baffled by the judge's choice for grand champion photo.)

But that's what the judge is supposed to do. So I did.

I was glad Jill was my assistant because I was slow. I hemmed and hawed. I evaluated and reevaluated. There should be a law against decision-challenged people serving as judges.

This particular event didn't have consultation judging, where you sit down and talk to the 4-Her. In some ways that was easier. It's easier to just circle "red" on the piece of paper instead of having to hand a red ribbon to a young 4-Her whose wheat shot had as many green weeds as golden stalks of grain. (No looking at said 4-Her's big, sad, puppy-dog eyes.)

But, on the other hand, it's sometimes hard to express how you would improve the photo when you're trying to explain it on an 8.5 X 11-inch sheet of paper.

In the end, I had my three winning photos.

When I showed my husband the photos when I got home, he inquired of my third-place winner, "That's a wheat picture?"

(See, I told you that I don't like the whole second-guessing thing I knew would happen. And he's my husband!)

But, yes, I think it's a wheat photo. It's all in your perspective. He is in the combine and doesn't usually make the trip to the elevator. However, lollipops with "CO-OP" emblazoned on them are found at plenty of elevators around the Central Plains. So, yes, maybe it's a stretch. But co-op lollipops do say "wheat harvest" to a truck driver. So it tells part of the wheat story. (I personally like the recent trend toward handing the truck driver a bottle of water or a can of pop, but that doesn't exactly say harvest like a co-op lollipop.)

The winning shot was taken by Taylor DeWeese, a Pratt County 4-Her.

Yes, I know I probably have a soft place in my heart for Pratt County 4-Hers, since I WAS one once upon a time. But it had nothing to do with her county. I liked her well-focused, close-up shot of a wheat stalk that she'd printed with sepia tones, evoking a golden wheat hue over the whole photo.

As a wheat producer, I like the idea of having a statewide wheat show for 4-Hers. Besides the photography, 4-Hers could enter cookies, a loaf of yeast bread, a poster, an educational display, a centerpiece and/or a quart jar of wheat. They could compete in a judging contest. They got a chance to choose from a couple of different educational tours in the Larned area.

While purple ribbons are nice, that's not what this event was all about in the long run. It brought families together for a fun learning experience. And it gave 4-Hers from across the state a chance to interact with new friends.

Now that's a win-win for everybody.


  1. I think you made great choices as one person's opinion on one certain day!!!

  2. Kim, Thanks for judging at the Larned Wheat Show. It is all the great volunteers like you that make Kansas 4-H the best.

  3. Thanks for the support, Kathy! And to anonymous: Thanks for the thanks! I enjoyed it (other than the nervous stomach part!) Seriously, I love the 4-H program, so it was a pleasure.