4 H

When I was a kid, in Iowa, I was involved with 4 H. I loved animals and wanted to show my sheep Curly, and Hereford steer at the County Fair.

The cruel reality of this venture was, I’d have to walk my ewe or steer up to the loading chute to their eventual slaughter. After the months of feeding, grooming and recording all that was required in my 4 H ledger, it was hard not get attached to my projects.

I have always loved animals. It was me who’d try to save a paralyzed cat who drug her hind-legs behind her after being stepped on by one of our cows. The chicken who had flown into a sharp branch and had to be extricated from the low hanging limb before she made things worse. The birds who flew into our windows like kamikaze pilots. I was the Dr. Pohl to our farm animals, and any other four-legged critter that crossed my path, in need.

But, in order to show my subjects, I had to be enrolled in girls 4 H as well as the boys division. In those days, it was separate. So, reluctantly I joined the girls side and made a cake or something so I could get on with the more important projects, my animals.

My Dad took me to a neighbor who raised Herefords. He let me pick out a calf for my project. I was so excited, riding with him in our pick up with the stock racks rattling as we traveled to our destination. Not much was said on the way, but I could feel his excitement for me. Good memory.

My problem was, I got attached, and dad knew it. He’d try to prepare me for the inevitable, but it was difficult. When you’ve looked into the eyes of a bovine, with those long eyelashes and deep brown pools of innocence, it’s hard not to love them.

I still have the halter, but my steer, well…I’m not going there.

me with 4h calf0002with sheep0001

This was taken on my parents front porch with my brother Stan, and sister Eileen. I was training my sheep to lead. My Grandpa Ross gave me my first lamb. He wasn’t much for showing emotion…hugging etc, but he did see to it that I got my lamb. I guess it was his way of saying he loved me. It meant a lot that he trusted me to care for one of his animals.

I was so proud! How many girls do you know, who have a pet lamb?

And, check out how stylish I was doing it!

Me with 4h sheep0002

This is Curly, my adult ewe. She was a sweetheart. Sheep are trusting and docile. That’s why they are so vulnerable to predators. Thus the Biblical passage, “Like lamb to the slaughter.”

Note the fresh cow-patty in the foreground.

I wish more children could experience the joy of caring for an animal. Whether it’s a guinea pig or show horse, it’s a great opportunity to educate children about love and loss, of management, and the responsibility of caring for a living creature. The utter and total dependence it has on the caregiver.

So, go out there and get that child you love, something to love.

Preferably not a snake, but it’s your call!







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