Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My Trouble with Pigs (and Covid-19)

My cleaning binge has uncovered a fairly valuable book. It may not be a bestseller, but it was definitely good for some deep belly laughs from the author's parents.

Jill was 10 at the time, so we'll excuse her spelling of "troubles." And the challenges of spelling out "Fritzemeier" are clearly evident on her book cover. With a name that's 11 letters long, you may have to drift onto the next line to complete the word.
It even had an ISBN number on the Stafford School library. It was classified as nonfiction because it chronicled Jill's journey with her 1994 4-H swine project., her first year in the project. Here is most of it (illustrated with photos from her 4-H book):
One day, I went over to Jeremiah's house with my family to get a pig. I hated the smell! I got a girl and a boy and then we weighed them. I named my pigs Pork and Beans. Leonard pulled them by the ears; I hated that.
Finally, we took them home. I loved them! I fed and watered them every day for a week.  Then I got tired of doing that. But I still had to water them. Once my dad left the water running. I did not have to water them that day. I left the water on too long and the whole pen was wet. ...

Two to three weeks later, dad broke his leg, so Grandpa, Mom and Brent helped me with the pigs. Sometimes, dad did, too. One day, I ran screaming up to our house. My mom thought my pigs were dead. I thought they had run away because I did not see them. They were behind the boards, and we had to fix the pen. It made us late for swimming.
Six weeks later, we took them to the fair; Dad still had his broken leg. I got a red ribbon, which I was not happy with. I sold Beans to the Farmers National Bank for about $150.00. Plus I got $80 for being in 4-H. 
Pork was slaughtered, which I was not happy about. When we had a meal from him, I did not eat it unless my mom and dad said I had to. I have not bought much with my money, but I have put half in the bank because mom and dad made me.

Our kids were never the most successful exhibitors in the Stafford County Fair swine show. But those red ribbons didn't mean there weren't valuable lessons learned along the way ... like feeding and watering an animal - even if you got tired of doing it. Or completing a job - even if it meant you were late to something fun like swimming.

We were mean parents. Yes, mom and dad made her put half in her account to begin a college savings fund. Her 4-H livestock projects ultimately helped her go to college. Same goes for her brother. And, in her teen years, some of the other funds she generated went toward jeans (or other clothes) that Mom might have deemed too pricey. She could make up the difference with her own money, if she so chose. And there was a lesson there, too.

It's been a long time since we've had 4-Hers at our house now. But we still provide money for awards. I continue to serve as the 4-H foods and nutrition superintendent at the county fair (and I've lost count of how many years I've done that, but probably for a quarter of a century - yikes!).
 It wasn't business as usual this year. With Covid-19, we didn't do conference judging for foods.
All the fun extras - like the concession stand, kiddie tractor pull and other entertainment - were sidelined in an effort to social distance and keep people safe. There were no open class entries, so I didn't have my normal armload of 8 x 10 photos to enter.
Conference judging teaches 4-Hers - and parents - a whole lot. A sheet of comments can't compare, but that's all we could do this year.

I witnessed my children's growth from the time they were first-year 4-Hers to the time they were confident, committed 4-H veterans.
This photo was from Jill's very first year for foods judging. She looks a little scared by the whole process. But year after year, she got better and better at it, and the judges eventually probably wondered if she'd ever quit talking.  And by the time she was veteran 4-Her, she was teaching others, and she, too, was serving as a foods superintendent at the county fair.

To me, that's the value of 4-H. It's not the ribbons, though, of course, the kids want the blue ribbon at the time.

Instead, it's the "sticktoitivness" that keeps kids feeding, watering and walking their animals or trying that recipe yet again or ripping out a crooked seam - the list goes on and on.

Runaway the bucket calf and Jill both being stubborn
You sometimes have to dig in your heels and keep practicing - day after day after day so that - eventually - you can persevere.
Runaway and Jill at the fair.
It means building things - whether physically building a woodworking project or a craft or a cattle pen - or building relationships between kids from other communities and adults who volunteer their time to help.

No, the county fairs around Kansas - and elsewhere in the U.S. - are a shadow of themselves this year. The Kansas State Fair has been canceled, as have many other state fairs across the U.S. But 4-H is still standing tall in what's important - To make the best better.

Growing through 4-H isn't like magic (though that self-determined project was one of Brent's favorites when he was a little guy.) 
There's no sleight of hand. It requires putting in the time and effort - as an individual, as a family and as a community.

 I pledge my head to clearer thinking,

My heart to greater loyalty

My hands to larger service

And my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world. 

Now if we could just get adults to do the same - especially that "clearer thinking" part.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! My parents were in 4-H in the 1940s and my husband and I were 4-Hers in the 1970s. So we have a long history with 4-H.