For the love of 4-H
These two — one daughter, one niece — have a big decision to make.
Today they’re going to a hog farm in search of the perfect pig. This is their first year in 4-H and they’ve each decided on a market hog project. The dark-haired smiling girl wanted to know how to pick one. Many opinions were contributed and discussions began and finally I said, “Just pick a pretty one.”
Language she could understand.
Find a cute little pig that catches your attention and choose that one … maybe not the best way to choose an animal for competition, but that’s what I always did. It could also be the reason my siblings garnered champion banners and I had to be content with occasional class winner ribbons.
Except one year.
My final year in 4-H saw all of us in the winner’s circle. It’s one of those family stories that everyone else hates — especially at the time! — but that still makes the people in our family smile with delight. It was special, unbelievable and unforgettable.
My brother and sister won their weight classes. My little sister showed two hogs that year and won both of her weight classes. I showed her second pig in the final round. So there it is …
Once upon a time back in 1993, the four Baker kids made it to the champion round and essentially competed against each other. I’m not telling this story to brag. Not at all. I’m telling this story because it was such a special time in our history. Four siblings, ages 19, 18, 13 and 9, learned what it means to make a united front and enjoy the spoils of victory. It was a feeling we can never duplicate.
Not because we won … but because we did it together.
4-H is a powerful motivator.
Thankfully, it’s alive and well in our county for the moment. The future isn’t guaranteed but for this year, at least, my youngest gets to experience the county fair like only a 4-Her can. And that makes my heart happy.
That same year my brother and sisters earned grand and reserve carcass hog banners in addition to market hog titles. And I finally grabbed a pretty purple banner with my grand champion steer … but I’m not bragging. That’s wasn’t my intention at all.
I will tell you …
I had to softly sing in my steer’s ear throughout the show because he lived life on the wild side and had the propensity to explode at any moment. My voice kept him distracted.
During the hog show I overheard the judge ask my little nine-year-old sister how much her pig weighed and she said “Three hundred … ” And I said, “She means two hundred whatever it was.” And the judge laughed.
And on the last day of the fair my other sister cried when they took her pig away. And I cried when they took that stubborn, bull-headed, explosive steer away.
My brother just laughed at us and went to the demolition derby.