I grew up in a small west Texas town called Kermit. I have some amazing memories and some horrible memories of that little place. I suppose most people could say that about their hometowns. That's just life in general.
When I was nine, my parents decided to sign my brothers and me up for a program called 4-H. We raised animals, did leather working, took sewing classes, gardening, and other programs to teach us responsibility and commitment. I raised hogs, sheep, and steers. My brothers also raised goats. I spent many hours at the 4-H animal pens caring for and cleaning up after my animals. I may also have been involved in the mischief of practical jokes and dirt clod fights on a few occasions. My brothers and I would ride our bikes over and
take our time hurry to get every chore done to the "best" of our ability.
When we were younger 4-Hers we stuck with our local county stock show. As we got older we went to bigger fairs and shows. One of the most hilarious parts of the local show was a little game we called Grab. My old friends Ricky Holcomb, Andy Fires, and the other older kids would gather all the newer 4-Hers and out of town kids around for the game.
They would take a cowboy hat, sprinkle coins, count to three, lift the hat, and all the kids would quickly reach in and grab as many coins as they could. Each time the game runners would increase the pot which in turn increased the greed of the players. The key was having the players close their eyes while the game was reset each time. It built excitement and anticipation.
On the final round, we would all talk up how much money was in the pot. The young players' eyes would grow with determination. We would all chant, "One. Two. Three!" Every kid surged toward the awaiting pot of gold ready to strike it rich! Only this time, a fresh green cow patty squished between their greedy little fingers. Oh the tears! Oh the laughter! The kids that won the favor of the older ones were the ones laughing. The kids who ran crying to their mommies usually didn't make it into the elite group. One of my favorite cryers was my cousin who absolutely drove me batty. My young justice driven self loved every one of his baby tears. By the way, these days this would probably be considered bullying. But in the 1980s, it was considered awesomeness. And yes, I once grabbed a hand full of warm squishy poo. It was a rite of passage in the Winkler County 4-H Club.
The following photos are a peek into my childhood. Keep in mind at this time I lived in west Texas and had a very thick accent. We moved to New Mexico my senior year of High School and I was teased about the accent so I worked hard to get rid of it. When I am mad, tired, or fired up while teaching, that Texas twang still sneaks out of my mouth. You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl.
Oreo was my first hog. Every kid's first black and white hog was, and probably still is, named Oreo. This photo shows when I'm realizing that my beloved Oreo was about to be sold in the auction to become bacon in someone's freezer.
Ah, the life lessons I learned in the ag world.
My first little hereford steer. I have vivid memories of halter breaking this guy. In my memory he's much bigger than what the photo indicates. I remember being drug around the arena when I was first working to break him. My dad stood at the fence yelling, "DON'T LET GO, ANGEL! YOU HOLD ON!" while my mom stood at the same fence yelling, "LET GO, BABY! LET GO!"
I broke that dang steer, and was tougher for it!
Oh yes. I graduated to this bad boy. I also graduated to wearing pants pulled up to my chest. That zipper has to be at least 12 inches long. The award I'm holding is probably for my awesome outfit, not the well built steer.
I always loved the toughness it took to raise steers. Halter breaking them and caring for the hugeness of it somehow made me feel significant. Steers seemed determined even though their ultimate greatness would be in the quality of t-bone steak they produced. Sheep on the other hand were not great in my book. They were stupid and smelly, but I loved showing them. When I would show steers they were big enough to hide behind, so I always felt like showing my sheep took more finesse and focus. I'm sure it didn't make a difference, but to a young self-centered teenager, I felt how I showed the animal made a world of difference...good eye contact, setting its legs in the right place, holding its head perfectly. I loved the showmanship aspect. I could never control whether or not my animal had the right muscle and structure to win, but I could control if I won the showmanship award. It was often my goal at the fair.
After we moved to New Mexico, my 4-H days ended. However, I then entered the fanciness of the Future Farmers of America club (FFA.) My teacher recruited me for the American Quarter Horse judging team. In 1991, I could easily tell you which horse in a class of four was the "nicest balanced, heaviest muscled horse in the class." In fact, our team won the state competition and went to the world competition in Oklahoma City where I placed ninth overall. That's right, you are reading the blog of the 1991 9th place World Champion American Quarter Horse judger. No autographs please.
The world of agriculture shaped me in many ways. I learned responsibility, caring for something that was dependent upon me, the life cycle, community living, money management, business, leadership, and had much fun. In the words of one of my favorite country artists, this is "where I come from."
Where do you come from? Please share something quirky from your childhood with us. Give us a window into your upbringing.