Summer is a great time of year. That is, if you can avoid the sweltering heat, the excessive rains, hail storms, tornadoes, drought and the swarms of mosquitoes.
Summers of baseball games, boating, camping and backyard cookouts are what make memories that will last for a lifetime. Memories are also made for many youth as they primp and preen to look their best for judges. Sure, there are talent contests and local town queen contests where humans are on display. But, many more memories are made every summer for youth who work long hours prepping a critter — four-legged or two-legged with feathers — for the big chance to bring home the purple ribbon and some premium money at the end of their county fair, and ultimately their state fair.
4-H and FFA members from around the country have their eyes on the prize, but the prize is a lot bigger than bringing home that colorful piece of silk. As they work with their animal to get them to look, and behave, their best when in the show ring, the youth may not truly understand the lessons they are being taught.
Livestock producers know all about caring for the animals under their watch, but a 4-H showman gains a closer attachment to the pig, lamb, sheep, heifer or hen that they will be showing off in front of a judge. Youth spend countless hours caring for their show animal, and during that time they gain the great responsibility in caring for another being. Have a ball game? First you have to walk that calf. Friends asked you to go to the lake? Sorry, you need to work with that gilt. You just want to call it a day? Too bad, you can’t sleep until all the chores are done.
This responsibility will lead these youth for the rest of their lives, and will serve them (and our country) well as it expands from responsibility for a few animals to a responsibility to family, coworkers, your community, your county, your state.
The backbone of responsibilities learned at the 4-H and FFA level are good for the youth, and of course, for that show animal. But, unknowingly, these youth are developing a backbone of responsibilities that will serve them, and us, well into the future.
Enjoy your summer of learning.