The craziest, most stressful and the most enjoyable week of summer is upon us. It's Fair Week!! You'll eat way too many funnel cakes and snow cones. It's the only week where you run frantically across the fairgrounds to get your pigs while a wash rack is still open. You constantly feed your smaller goat trying to get it make weight. You sweep dirt floors and go through countless bags of wood chips in the name of herdsmanship. Freaking out about your calf lying down right before showmanship is common. Proudly displaying your ribbons on your nameplate is one of the highlights. Then sale day comes and you trade your animal and hard work in for a small heartbreak and paycheck. I was blessed to have participated in the 4-H program for 10 years. I consider 4-H to have been one of the most influential activities in my life. 4-H teaches responsibility, leadership and how to work hard. But there are other lessons that a 4-Her learns throughout their career. Lessons that aren't quite as elegant as leadership. Here are the 10 things 4-H actually taught me.
1. Put your name on it.
This is probably one of the most important lessons you learn. In the barn, every broom, shovel, hairbrush, feed pan, or water sprayer is fair game if left in the open. Scoop shovels are to be protected. If you don't put your name on things, good luck getting them back.
2. You will get wet. You may get soaked.
There is no way to escape giving your pigs a bath without getting wet. By the end your hair is wet, you're up to your elbows in bubbles and there is an inch of water in your muck boots. You can't avoid it, so you might as well hope it's hot and you don't get water in their ears.
3. Cows always win tug-of-war.
No matter how hard you try, a 100-pound kid is no match for a 1300 pound steer. Smart kids drop the lead rope when their calf takes off. Real 4-Hers get drug across the arena.
4. If it won't hold water, it won't hold a goat.
Many mornings I have arrived at the Fairgrounds to discover my goats standing in the middle of the tack room, or in the alley between pens. If they can reach it, it is eaten. The number of ribbons that I've lost to hungry goats is ridiculous.
5. I can give subcutaneous injections to a banana.
I have sat through multiple hours of Quality Assurance, and this skill is the one I came away with.
6. Cake is key.
If you give a cow some cotton cake there isn't anything you cannot make them do. Cake batter also comes in very handy in getting pigs to gain weight. An extra bonus is everybody loves cake.
7. It is okay to run.
This is similar to the cows win tug-of-war. You never know how fast you can run until you have a mad mama cow chasing you. And when two pigs decide to fight it is better to get the hell out of dodge then get between them.
8. Need a haircut? I'll grab my trimmers.
I have trimmed enough goats, calves and pigs to be an expert hair stylist. If I can shave the blond hair off of a white pig, I feel I am totally qualified to give human haircuts.
9. Things go from zero-100 real quick.
Everything can be going perfectly one second and the next. You have one goat choking on his halter, you've lost your belt, your sibling's number is pinned on upside down and you are due in the show ring in about two seconds.
10. Shit happens.
It's a cold, hard fact of life. As a 4-H competitor, shit is a part of life. You scoop and scoop and scoop. But it never ends. I feel that you aren't a true 4-H competitor until you've slipped, stepped or fallen in it. It is just a fact of life, shit happens but even better is the fact it washes off.
Ten lessons for each of the ten years I participated in the 4-H program. Animals come and go, but the lessons stay forever.