Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Trapper Keeper Marriage

It’s funny the things you learn about a person after you’ve married them.
Super funny.
So funny that Cody nor I were laughing last night as we discussed the coon trapping binge I’ve been on for a few weeks.

Let me back up.

We’ve had unwelcome visitors in our feed room recently. 
They trespass.
They dig.
They rip.
They self-serve.
They have destroyed several perfectly good bags of feed.


After consulting strangers, friends and relatives regarding bait,  I set the trap and anxiously (weird, I know) awaited results. I’ve gotten into the routine of going to the barn first thing in the morning to check the live trap. I report back to Cody our hits or misses.

For as successful as we’ve been (we’ve been feeding a small nocturnal army for some time, apparently), Cody just doesn’t seem to get the same satisfaction that I do when there is another free loader caged in our feed room.

video
The most I've used the garden rake all summer. 

The first raccoon was caught when Cody was out of town and I enlisted my Dad’s help in disposal.  
Fast and Easy.
The second raccoon was caught when Cody was home we had a debate on how dispose of it.

“What’s your deal with not wanting to shoot this coon?!” I feverishly asked him one morning.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happened to me. I’ve gotten soft hearted with age. I used to hunt all the time in Kansas. I loved it,” Cody responded.
I fastened a necklace around my neck and packed up my laptop.
“Whatever. I’ll take care of it when I get home. Don’t even mess with it. It’s a rodent. A thief  And it’s eating our cattle feed. I’ll kill him, no problem.”
Cody poured my coffee into an insulated mug.
Slow and steady.
Calculated.
Calm.
I strangely wished I could be more like him. 
Meanwhile, I was rushing through the house like a tornado in heels.
“Geeeezo preezo (a coined Cody Sankey phrase). I had no idea that I had married a cold blooded killer.”
I lost it.
“Well I had no idea I married a woman!”
We both laughed.
And said our PS Prayers. Much needed.

Cody confirmed that he’d get rid of of the coon before I got home that night.
And he did.

Two nights later I walked out to the barn in the pouring rain to set the trap again. Cody advised against it. I, however, was on a roll. I followed Uncle Hal’s advice and used sardines.
We caught another one.
A huge one.

Cody was less thrilled than I.
With little discussion, he told me he’d again take care of it.

Fast forward to yesterday.
That is when I gathered bait to catch creeper number four and Cody remarked that we should give the trapping a rest until we knew we still had an issue.
In return, I gave him a quick – but passionate - synopsis of the value in being proactive rather than reactive.
In one ear, out the other.

“I just don’t like the look they give me when they're in the cage,” he said.
“Like…..just put the bullet in their head. I promise they’ll close their eyes.”
He didn’t say much. I felt kind of mean, raw.
“Did you shoot the last one? I didn’t see your gun out,” I asked.

Game changing question.

I could tell by the look on Cody’s face that he wanted to tell me something but he was afraid to do so. 
It was the exact same look he gave me when he reveled that he forgot to bring home The Show Malbec wine during his last trek to Michigan.


“Cody. Did you shoot the last raccoon?”
“What do you mean?”
“Cody. Did you shoot the last raccoon?”
“Why does this matter?”
At this point I didn’t know if I was dealing with Cody Sankey or Rachel Dolezal.
“Cody. Did you shoot the last raccoon?”
“I got rid of him. Don’t worry about it.”
“Is it dead?”
“He took a ride and a fall.”

I was furious.
I took off my earrings and stomped upstairs. He stood at the base of the steps and called up, asking why I was so upset about disposal of a stupid raccoon.

“Because! I worked hard to catch them and you apparently load them in the bed of your truck and take them on a joy ride. Then give them a head pat. And a scratch behind the ears. Then turn them loose!” I yelled down. I could almost see him smiling at the base of the steps.
No bueno.

“No offense, (I took offense as soon as he said that) but all you really did was grease the cage and throw some salty fish in it. The cage did all the work.”
I didn’t know if I should laugh at his joke or ring his neck. I decided to put on barn clothes instead.
I responded with Silence.
That’s powerful.

After my blood pressure leveled out and Cody got done with a customer phone call I gently – this took effort – asked him where the raccoon was? Did he drown it? Shoot it? Throw it off of a bridge? Tie fireworks to his back? Hang it from a tree?
I strangely had to know.

This is where I stopped dead in my boots and thought maybe I should listen to his reasoning.
“Linds, I am not kidding when I say that the raccoon gave me puppy dog eyes when I went out to shoot it.”
This.
Right here.
This is when I asked myself: Who did I marry?
The Cody at the alter was gravel voiced and calloused and rugged and hardy.
Two years later he’s standing in the kitchen telling me about a heart-to-heart he had with a dirty raccoon.


“It like scooted back in it’s cage and stared at me. And I knew I wouldn’t feel good about shooting it. So I loaded it up, told it not to come back to Wayne County and drove it across two county lines and dumped it. It jumped off the tailgate. It was really fat.”

I stared blankly at the man I love so much.
Thinking of how much I wanted to kill him.

I don’t remember my response. 
I do remember walking out to the garden to weed, water and pick.
I walked back to the house to get gloves.
I trap. He keeps.

"This marriage deal,” I began as Cody made his way to the barn. “I learned today that I’m the trapper and you’re the keeper. We’re no longer BowSankey. Two years into this forever deal and we’re now TrapperKeeper.”

"There are worse things, I guess," he responded. 
Slow and steady. 
Calculated. 
Calm.
I strangely wished I could be more like him. 
Balance, my friends, is everything.

I am the trapper.
He is the keeper.
Together, we will change the world.


Or, at least waste expensive diesel fuel to 
transport fat rodents from 
one county to the next.
In the spirit of saving their souls. 

Ugh. 
Don’t even get me started. 
Again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hay Help

Dear 'Ol Dad asked me two weeks ago what I was doing on July 18. I reveled that CS would be in Tulsa for the National Junior Angus Show and other than maintaining herds 1, 2 and 3 I didn't have much planned. 
I showed all of my cards. 
Rookie mistake.

Then, he asked if I could be "hay help."

Like....I'm 30. Not 17.
Shouldn't he have known by now that my bale tossing days are over? 
Shouldn't he have known that I'm not as good as I once was?
Shouldn't he have known that there are kids around the block (or 10-mile radius) that are looking for money?

I agreed to the deal. My skin needed vitamin D. My physique needed...a lot. 

I showed up early Saturday morning to learn that "hay help" entailed directing him as he loaded round bales from the field to the trailer, and haul them home. 

Easy peezy?

Without a doubt, whenever I spend an extended period of time with Dad (more than 2 minutes), I'm certain to take away a lesson or five. 

But for the sake of time - 
I know you have
expense reports
laundry
coffee dates
showers
county fairs
dirty dishes
yard work
snuggling
cows to feed
paperwork
and life to get back to. 

One hour into the 6-hour adventure with Dad and the farm truck - totally trusty since bought brand new in 2001 -  was over heating while climbing a 3-mile hill (4 separate times) and pulling 14 large bales, each load. How dare that truck?

Dad geared down, adjusted, watched the gauge move completely into the red zone and finally -  told me to throw my legs out the window. 



Dad and I spent the next 4 hours hauling hay -  in 89º temperatures - with the heat on full blasters because (apparently - who knew?) using your heated vents draws heat off of the engine. 
I couldn't deal. 
My legs were fixin' to combust and air hotter than a firecracker was in my face. 
Twice I thought my extremities were on fire. I couldn't put my feet in front of any vent. 
I sincerely thought: This is the hottest I've ever been in 30 years. 



Every so often I'd look over at Dad and he was driving cool as a cucumber back to the farm. Even in intense heat, and less-than-ideal-conditions, he knew it had to be done. 



"I know there is a blog in this situation somewhere, but it's too hot for me to even process thoughts right now!" I yelled over the roar of the engine and 4 windows down. 
He laughed. 
We made it home - all bales transported and unloaded - at 7:23 that evening. 

But the thing I learned - and you can too - from hauling hay several miles from home with Phil Bowman:

There is value in discomfort. 

So what if your heart is broke?
You had to move to another notch in the belt?
You had to use the cheap "Q-Tips" that bend with your force?
Your shoes leak in all of this water?
She won't call you back?
You can't afford to keep the house at 67º?
Your budget won't allow buying lunch daily or even the new dress?
You're homesick?
You have to work with shoddy equipment for a little longer?
You have to wait just a little longer?

Remember: discomfort means that you're growing. 
I'll be brutally honest when I admit that I moved home from Washington, DC too early. I was homesick. Sad from Granddad's passing. Listening to folks other than myself. And  left an incredible opportunity back in the District - rather than growing from that discomfort. 

But I've learned: 
It's good - no, great - for one  to experience discomfort. To not get what you want. Things have historically been easy, accessible, changeable and nice. 


Challenge yourself outside your comfort zone a little. 

The hay is home, the truck is operational, we have all extremities and Dad and I can laugh about it now. But trust me, next time he asks me what I'm doing on a Saturday  I'll be asking for clarification. 


My friend Brandon shared this, and I think it's worth passing on:
“If you are willing to do only what is easy, life will be hard. 
But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.” 
– T. Harv Eker

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Killing Jack

I'm fortunate to say that one of my two favorite places on this earth is just 36.5 miles from my driveway. 
I'm foolish to say that I don't get there nearly as much as I'd like to because of my "busy" schedule. 



Last Friday I drove to The Original Jean's house after work. We had big plans for our grandma/granddaughter date: eat one of her famous cheeseburgers, then indulge in ice-cream as Granddad did, then sort family photos. The same thing we've done for three decades. It was Friday, after all, and our diets didn't start until Monday. 


We were having a peaceful evening watching the daily murder recap on the Dayton, Ohio news station when she suddenly stopped chewing. 
"What time is it?!" The Original asked as she dropped her fork of potato salad. 
I looked to the clock that has hung over the kitchen sink for at least 30 years. 
"5:48," I told her. 
Then, she started hustling:
"We've got to get the channel changed. I have to see if Jack dies for good this time..."
Wait. What? I thought to myself. I asked for clarification. 
"Jack," she went on, "it should be this one where we find out if he dies for good or lives forever." 
I stared at her blankly. 
She tried to explain, using her terrible eyes to change the channel with her perfectly painted nails. 
"What show are you looking for?" I asked. 
"The Young and the Restless....I can't see these damn numbers anymore...."
I took the remote and switched to The Young and the Restless rerun just in time.
"I wish they'd stop beating around the bush and just kill him off..." Grandma feverishly continued. 

World. Stopped. Turning. 

Just like that - it was as though I was 25 years younger, a stout blonde with bad hair, back in my little rocking chair in front of the TV eating bologna and cheese and drinking Kool-Aid, passing time before afternoon kindergarten and waiting to see if Jack died. Now - 25 years later - I can plainly see why Momma wanted me in afternoon kindergarten: so she wouldn't miss The Young and the Restless. 


Did you know I Grew Up Rich? 

"Is Jack Abbott still alive??" I asked The Original, a bit taken back as it felt like 25 years of my life flew by and somehow this slimy Jack is still escaping death avery 6 weeks. 


The Original and I continued watching the pivotal episode, my jaw fixin' to hit my dinner plate. 
Jack. 
Nikki. 
Victor. 
They were all still alive. I was certain when I graduated kindergarten they had all died in a fiery crash on their way to Malibu. 

She really did have great hair. 





Can't. Deal. With. This.  

I still couldn't get over the fact that Nikki hadn't killed Victor off. Like...she tried really hard in 1993. 
I remember. 
She reminded me of my reading teacher and scared the crap out of me.

But perhaps it wasn't the fact that they were all still alive that really had me floored, but rather the idea that my incredible grandmother - 85 years bold - is still waiting for something to happen on the screen. Day..to week...to month...to year to...decade. 



Later (but not by much) that night The Original went to bed and I continued to dive into a Rubbermaid tub of photos, sorting/labeling each one. It took so long because of gems such as this:


The handsome face of Bowman Superior Genetics.

While I sat and sorted, I couldn't help but think of - and laugh about - the soap opera situation I experienced earlier. For entertainment reasons, Grandma continued to keep up with Jack, Victor and Nikki after all of these years. Daily, wondering - without control of the situation - what is next
But it's more than that. 
So much more than daytime television, what things are we clinging to, keeping up with or holding on to, in hopes things will finally materialize? Or maybe even fear that they will?

The money you should have invested some time ago?
The succession plan you desperately need to address?
The wrong relationship you've tried to make work 100 times?
The plan to begin taking care of your body - your one and only body?
The resume that you need to submit?
The call you need to make, telling her how you really feel?
The two weeks you need to give?
The doctor appointment you desperately need to make but won't, out of fear?
The admission of guilt?
The sibling relationship you need to salvage?
The leap of faith keeping you awake at night?
The letter you need to write?
The application you need to submit?
The life you need to live - for yourself for once?

What are you waiting on? I sure hope it's not Jack to die off because that's taken decades....thus far. 

Would you rather change the channel and move on with your life or spend so many precious days wondering what will happen next?



Be the change agent. 



Or this could be you. 

....To be continued. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Longest Walk

It began in March.
I remember being very young and spending that particular day with my mother - which, of course - I always did. Those days were nothing extraordinary, but special nonetheless. Our time together was short. 
Anyhow, on this particular day, I caught the eye of a man. 

Not any man, but rather the one who owned the place; this place that I call home. 
He watched me briefly, then went on about his business of checking mineral tubs. 



April
Shortly after, that a very similar scenario played out, except the man had his kids with him.  "That's her, 510, she has her back to us," he told the children riding in the back bed of the Kawasaki Mule. 
The kids talked. I couldn't understand them over the rumble of the motor. They only stayed by mother and I for a few minutes. 
When they drove away, the young boy in the back studied me. 
Watched me. 
Looked straight into my eyes. I returned the gesture. 
I knew then: My life was about to change. 



September
Months later I was weaned; taken from my mother. 
Clueless animal rights folks think this is torture. 
Apparently they thoroughly enjoy still living in their parents' basement and playing Tetris on the internet.
That's not the life for me. Or anyone going somewhere in life. 
Mother handled it better than I did; she is maternal enough to know that life - even as a beef heifer - is about roots and wings
I went through the tub system and received my vaccinations and was poured so the insects wouldn't eat me alive. 
I was hard to corral. 
I carried on like a bandit. 
I bellowed against the metal of the system and acted like I was flat out being tortured. Dramatic? Maybe. 
But I wanted to prove my independence. 


Didn't work.
This is me an hour later. 



My life moved quickly after that. 
October
I was halter broken - but not after raising hell for a couple weeks. As a young heifer, that was my job. 
I was rinsed - extensively. For as clean as I stayed in that pen under a barn, they were sure concerned with rinsing me. A lot. It wasn't a problem until they interrupted snooze time. 
I was fed - precisely - to ensure nutrition. Never as much as I wanted, but I never mentioned it. Obviously. 

March
And I was talked to. 
Often. 
Sometimes the young boy talked more to me than he did his family. Sometimes he cried around me when none knew where he was. Sometimes he just came in and sat behind me to get away from everyone else. Usually, I was the only one who knew his secrets.
And most of the time, he liked me more than he did his sister. Can't blame him. She can be a tic dramatic. 

It was during this time that I strangely became a safe place - or hideout - for the young boy. He stayed here long after his work is done, Angus Journals in hand. He talked to himself. He circled things. He folded corners of pages. He studied that Journal far more than any text book. In fact, between you and me, sometimes he hid the Journal in his backpack and told his mother he was coming here to do his science reading, only to never crack open the science book. Please don't repeat that; I enjoyed the company. 



May
Just as the young boy is changing - he's getting taller and thinner - I am changing, too. Hours behind those Angus Journals (hopefully) paid off as the boy made the decision to breed me to BAR Ext, a bull certain to not kill me. Of course, according to his EPDs. There was a lot of discussion between the boy and his Dad about that decision. In the end, his Dad let it be the choice of the boy who had done his homework. You know, it's interesting how some folks think that after my showing days are over, my purpose is over, too. In reality - with this one decision, it's just beginning. 



July
It's funny how excited I get when I hear the diesel engine growl and the aluminum trailer hit the holes in the lane as it pulls into the farm. My initial thought: Someone is taking a ride, and I hope it's me. This time, it was. The boy loaded me up and took me all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the National Junior Angus Show. I've never seen so many kids all jacked up on powered donuts and fun dip in my life. Water balloon fights, cooking contests, public speaking showdowns and matching t-shirts. About half way through the week I wasn't sure if I was at a cattle show for some sort of halfway house for wild adolescents addicted to Final Bloom. It was a good week, all the way around. Second in class. Can you believe it? I'm tired and ready for home. 

August
Well, today was interesting. I saw those kids fling showsticks at one another like they were participants of season 25 of Survivor. I mean....both great shots, both had the passion in their shouts and energy in their arms, but there was about three minutes when I didn't know if either would survive. The boy locked his sister in the stock trailer for calling him a sissie. I guess that'll teach her. Their mother came and demanded he let her out before she died in there. He walked back to the trailer with great hesitation. 

They both went on to survive the ordeal. And traveled to the county fair the next week.
What a week for all of us. The kids were extremely excited, the parents were somewhat excited, I was was most excited when it was over. It was a hot week for a gal used to a fan on her back. 
There were so many spectators taking it all in, commenting on each of us as we walked around. Some even made spectacles of themselves and commented on the kids. Don't get me started.  Anyhow, I did well. Like - purple banner over my stall card - well. Can you believe it?



After that it got cooler outside of the barn and the days got shorter. We took fewer walks with a show stick but increased our walks to and from the wash racks, for whatever reason. My days became mundane during that period. I always looked forward to that next trailer ride. 

November 
I had an interesting experience with the young boy. I rode in the stock trailer for several hours before unloading some place quite bigger than the county fair. Much of the week was similar, though. Eating, being rinsed, the boy watching me, being tied outside at night, his sister running around socializing. Two major differences I noticed: There were hundreds of head just like me. Blowers were constantly running, funs were buzzing around the clock, the wash racks were always full - can you believe that? I wasn't just the lone animal in the barn anymore. And, can you believe this, when the boy showed me I walked on green wood shavings. Green! I felt fancy. 


Except, when we got home, 
I realized how much my life 
was about to change. 

Now, it's my turn. 
I speak - or, something - with confidence when I say these kids have done everything they could to make me successful. The miles hauled across the U.S., the dedication and time, the investment of money, feed and space, the knock-down-drag-outs in the barnyard...all of that was for me. I didn't win a national show, but I don't think that was the goal at hand. The goal at hand is still in the making. 

Now it's my turn. 
As the boy leads me down the gravel path to the pasture, his sister tails me - though she does not touch me once. She need not. I walk willingly, as taught, as trained, as I know best. Where he leads me I will go; I am amongst friends. 



This, the longest walk, leads from the barn to the pasture, where I'll truly live out my purpose: producing a calf every year for the boy. Building his herd. Fueling his passion. Providing the next generation of breeding stock for the producer. Up until now, I've taught the boy animal husbandry, a bit about nutrition, the value of getting the work done before the day gets unbearably hot and why it's important to not kill your sister: She's a good co-worker. Now, after the longest walk, I'll teach him about raising safe, affordable beef in the U.S. 

Now it's my turn. 
And my job as a show heifer was never to get the young boy to the backdrop; this - all of this - was never about the backdrop. This was about becoming a cow that produced a live calf. This was about producing beef cattle that perform and reproduce - without a jack and chains.  This was never about tail adhesive, paint or crippled competitors. This is about beef. My life is about the offspring yet to come, of which the young - turned adult - boy will one day say to his daughter as he points, 


"Her grand dam was 
the one that started it all."


For a mother's perspective, 
check out It's A Wonderful Life.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Coach Character

While we're on the subject of the county fair...

I think we need to discuss something. 
Just you and I. 
(In between your eighth load of laundry and calling the extension office to confirm:  does the show start at 2:00 or does showmanship start at 2:00? Anxious grandparents must know.)

Anyway, back to you and I. 
And our chat. 
Go refill your coffee. 
I'll wait. 

I witnessed something this week. 

Within an hour of arriving to the county fair I saw an adult completely humiliate a child showing livestock. 

Their tactic:
Stand ringside, verbally (and loudly) critique the showmanship of the child and wrap up the disgusting display by visually displaying disappointment in the kid. 

I wanted to throw up. But I had just eaten a $6.50 Kemo sub. Those deals can't be wasted. Then I saw something I'd never seen before: a broken heart with a buzz cut, pig whip in his hand and tears on his cheeks. Unbearable. 

Let's chat. 

Showing livestock is about building character. 

It's about learning responsibility and working hard towards a goal and also understanding what makes sheep bloat. 
Which is, apparently, everything. 
Showing livestock is not about the adults' financial investment, the adults' prideful reputation or the adults living vicariously through someone a quarter of their size. Showing livestock is not about last names. 

Showing livestock is about building character. 

This isn't the National Western Stock Show, it's the county fair. 
And even if it was, scolding - rather than coaching -  your child in front of a national crowd isn't going to help in any way. This is where your child will meet the friend that they'll go on Spring Break 2023 with. You'll approve the trip because they're "in 4-H together". This is local. This is your back forty.  These people - the ones gauging how you react to winning or rejection - are their village. 
**By the way: One of the young men you're daughter is showing against will probably take her to prom in seven years. Brace yourself. 



Showing livestock is about building character. 

Your kid isn't going to make a living precisely parading livestock, keeping the flawless stock between himself and the judge. 
Your kid may go on to make a living breeding and selling sought genetics, building relationships far and wide, developing a brand and cultivating a passion which generations to come will benefit from. But perfect showmanship tactics? They come and go. The county fair is the place to cultivate those interests and polish those talents. No one becomes famous here. Calm down.


Showing livestock is about building character. 

It's also about displaying character. 
They're watching.
And when you scold them in public? You're breaking their confidence
And when you throw a fit? You're giving them permission to do the same. 
And when you return to the stalls or the show box and bad mouth the judge? You're teaching them how to discount anyone who ever offers them constructive criticism.

In a world where kids get trophies 
for showing up to three practices, 
constructive criticism is crucial!

Little Eyes Upon You

There are little eyes upon you
and they're watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly
take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager
to do anything you do;
And a little girl who's dreaming
of the day she'll be like you.

You're the little angel's idol,
you're the wisest of the wise.
In her little mind about you
no suspicions ever rise.

She believes in you devoutly,
holds all you say and do;
She will say and do, in your way
when she's grown up just like you.

There's a wide-eyed little girl
who believes you're always right;
and her eyes are always opened,
and she watches day and night.

You are setting an example
every day in all you do;
For the little girl who's waiting
to grow up to be like you.

Kimberly Sedlacek


Showing livestock is about building character. 

Trust me. No one comes to the county fair and expects to lose. No one puts their family through the familiar hell that is the week before the county fair. You've worked hard to coordinate. The kids are tired. The stock is ready. You're fixin' to hide in a closet and shut off your phone. I get it. But everyone - everyone - comes to compete and do their best. Their very best. Your kid included. 



Showing livestock is about building character. 

At the end of the day - or the auction - showing livestock teaches kids how to win graciously and lose gracefully. 
Appreciate the blue ribbons. 
Accept the rejection letter. 
Balance a check book. 
Read a feed sack label. 
Find confidence in a flood of embarrassment. 
Fail the interview but dominate the closure handshake. 
Sincerely thank the judge that buried the best steer that will ever come off of the farm. 
Because - who knows - that very judge may hire her right out of grad school, a decade later. 

I'll let you get back to your coffee. And laundry. 
(If you don't want to have to iron your underwear, now might be a great time to get the clothes out of the dryer, by the way.)


Remember: This week is similar to vacation for your kids: 
A week of sunshine, sno-cones, 
their favorite stock, 
long lost friends and 
way-past-bedtime nights. 


If you must coach from the sidelines, 
coach character. 


Oh, and I think the same can be said for sports. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Week Before The County Fair

It's the week before the county fair in our tiny part of the world.
The wonderful, beloved, long-awaited, anticipated, (right-about-Tuesday-overrated) county fair. 

What does that look like?
Well, per usual, not this Rockwell painting:



I reflect back to the week before the county fair when we were in 4-H and think that possibly the greatest display of sincere love and patience Momma ever showed was not killing us - or herself - the week before the county fair. 
Looking back, I don't know how she did it. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Show boxes are being pulled out, scrubbed out and rinsed out. Old ribbons are being straightened out then carried to the house. Do you keep yellow ribbons? That is an internal debate. Show halters are being scrubbed then conditioned. Kids are realizing that their parents may have known what they were talking about when they said, "Clean it out now. In a year you'll be glad you did."
Kids are wishing that they had

It's the week before the county fair. 
Women are feverishly leafing through Southern Cooking and Taste of Home cookbooks, searching for the perfect four-layer-chocolate-truffle-cake-sure-to-beat-'Ol-Always-Wins-Whats-Her-Name.
Ugh. 
For as much sugar as she puts in her cake, you'd think 'Ol-Always-Wins-Whats-Her-Name would be just a little bit sweeter...

It's the week before the county fair. 
4-Hers are rummaging through the trash trying to find the ingredient tag off of any feed sack. Project books are being completed - because of everything short of a gun held to the head - at the stroke of midnight, then being hand delivered to 4-H leaders' homes at the crack of dawn for the final signature. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
A crowd sits in the rural school auditorium, watching shy girls transform into confident young women in chiffon during the beloved queen contest. That same crowd shares coordinated seat shifts when a contestant question is answered without thought. That same crowd beams with pride when the most deserving young lady is crowned. 


Julie Moyer Arnold

It's the week before the county fair. 
Mothers are stuffing their growing children into the white jeans she bought too sizes too big last summer, sure they'd fit perfectly this year. She is also wondering why said children chose the dairy project again. They don't even regularly finish the leftover milk from their cereal. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Open class exhibitors are watering, plucking, scouting, pruning, picking, poking and poaching the perfect produce. They're also trying to remember what time the old Master Gardener around the block usually goes for his Saturday morning coffee? Before open class check-in ends at 10:00, they hope. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Muffins are burning, cakes are collapsing, little brothers are taste-testing things they shouldn't and young gals are calling their grandmothers to decipher cursive writing on a recipe card, From the Kitchen of: Mary Lou, 1978.

It's the week before the county fair. 
Show numbers, registration papers and health papers are held in higher regard than the third child's birth certificate. Perhaps even the third child, entirely

It's the week before the county fair. 
Showmen are shaking aerosol cans, checking volumes, to determine just how much money they'll pay Mr. Sullivan next week. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
This is right about the time that the $200 in creative spending you've invested in at Hobby Lobby should kick in, but doesn't. 


It's the week before the county fair. 
Grandparents are gathering their one dollar bills, sure that half of their life savings will be spent on fair food and the livestock auction in the next 10 days.  As long as the grandkids are happy...and hydrated. 


It's the week before the county fair. 
Young, inexperienced mothers are laying out clothes: Shirts you're allowed to eat a snow cone in, shirts you cannot. In two weeks they'll pre-treat, wash, dry, fold and put in a trash bag for cousins. "Barn Clothes" she'll label them. Some may become dust rags with a story. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Thirty-somethings are looking at their open class projects, glue still drying the morning that it's due for judging, thinking: I thought I'd have it more together by now. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Teens are wondering if their fair crush will remember them. 
Two things I want you to note here:
1. Of course he/she will; there are 16 teens your age in 4-H in the county. Your crush is related to 8 of them. Your odds are fantastic. 
2. You're the complete package, you just haven't come to realize it yet. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
Campers are being pulled out of the barn. Fathers are making to-clean lists, mothers are still wondering why they bought the dirty old thing and kids are trying to convince both that they'd rather sleep in a tent. "Memory Maker" dad called it; I won't type what Momma called it. Young people read this blog. 

It's the week before the county fair. 
The Worst of the Worst sibling fights are sure to take place this week. Things will be said, done, sworn and physically carried out. None of those things are true or good or right. In fact, those things won't be said, done, sworn and/or physically carried again out until the Summer Type Conference in Springfield next week. Or the week before Junior Nationals. Or Louisville. Maybe (probably)  all of them. 


It's the week before the county fair. 
Mothers say things such as:
You are never - ever - doing this project again.
When I was in 4-H I had my projects done in April.
I swear if I find out you talked to your brother that way in public...
You kids are lucky this only lasts ten years. I would have killed you in the eleventh.
Get your hair out of your face and tuck your shirt in. 


It's the week before the county fair.

Survive it, embrace it, love it, and remember:

The next ten days will go so quickly. 


But seriously -  next year? 
Start earlier.