By Theresa Blume
Dad was milking “Daisy,” our Charolaise cow when I walked into the white-washed barn. “Nubbins,” her calf, was waiting at his stanchion, stamping flies and chewing his cud. I put his halter on and led him out the front door of the barn towards the dead-end road. He and I walked, much like a dog and its master, moving in sync with each other.
After our walk I worked on training Nubbins to take his stance. Being a beef steer, he needed to know how to “square up” so he would look good when we went to the Marshfield fair. After his workout I hand-fed Nubbins his treat, praising him while brushing him. Since Nubbins was my 4-H calf for the fair, my dad gave Nubbins extra portions of feed, and I made sure he was ready to show.
I was barely a teenager when we moved to our farm near Vesper. Mom wanted us to make friends so she enrolled us three younger girls in the Snyder 4-H club. Being the oldest sister, I felt out of place with younger kids, but when they mentioned showing animals my interest was piqued.
We raised a variety of animals on our hobby farm, and I loved doing things with them. My dad had a knack for spotting quality animals so I approached him for advice on using a calf for the fair. Between his natural wisdom and 4-H resources, I was able to make a good showing.
Shirley Vruwink, the longtime club leader, saw potential in me, and soon I found myself president of the 80-member club. She encouraged me to talk on the phone with parents, speak in front of people, and attend workshops.
One of the exclusive experiences of Snyder 4-H was the whole club annually getting together to make apple pies from scratch in preparation for our food stand. The first year I didn’t understand why the club would go to all the trouble until I was working at the food stand and saw customers come back just for our apple pie. Thankfully, Mom taught me how to make change for the first time so I could confidently serve customers.
Sleeping in the pen with Nubbins at the fair gave me time to get to know kids in other clubs and learn the fair business from the inside. My sisters and I were involved in every aspect of 4-H and fair showing, and it not only gave us warm memories to cherish but prepared us for our future in many practical ways.
My mom was the rabbit leader and involved us in making floats for parades. I learned how to raise rabbits, butcher them, sell them, and show them. Between my mom and dad, I became accustomed to bringing home blue ribbons and even grand champion ribbons for my efforts.
My dad has passed, and Shirley is no longer here, but I still feel like a blue ribbon winner. In adult life when things go wrong and life is hard, I remember that with hard work and support anyone can accomplish great things.
The Marshfield area has tons of opportunities to give your children, but don’t just enroll them and drop them off. Choose thoughtfully. Limit their activities to ones in which you can personally be invested. Volunteer where you can, and support them positively in words and action. You will be making good memories and learn more about yourself and your child. By involving yourself you will gain more than you ever expected.