EAGLE — Cattle, horses, everything else, dogs and people. That’s the order in which God’s creatures are fed if you’re a 4-H family.
“Raising Grand Champion animals is not as important as raising Grand Champion kids,” C.J. Mucklow said. “4-H is a great way to learn responsibility.”
Mucklow is the regional director of the CSU Cooperative Extension, which means he’s in charge of 4-H programs all over Western Colorado. He spends more time on the road than anything not named Firestone, learning how people do things differently, and that sometimes different is good.
This week he’s at the 75th annual Eagle County Fair & Rodeo.
Glenda Wentworth, one of the CSU Extension staffers who helps run Eagle County’s 4-H programs, looks around the Eagle River Center at dozens of 4-H kids and their projects and smiles. The kids have notched another year of learning skills that will serve them well all their days.
“You learn by doing, the best way of learning,” Wentworth said. “It’s a hands-on program, and sometimes those hands get dirty.”
Yes, kids make friends and have fun. They also learn life skills, such as setting long-term goals and working toward them a step at a time. Every project has a record book where everything is documented.
“The kids sometimes dread it, but when they’re adults they have to document things for taxes, businesses, households ... almost everything they do,” Wentworth said. “I’ve had kids tell me they made career choices based on the their 4-H projects.
Here’s the thing about that, says David Darrough, a 4-H parent.
“If an adult doesn’t turn in your invoice, you don’t get paid. In 4-H, you don’t get the check from the livestock sale until you turn in your record book,” Darrough said.
4-H, friends and fun
For parents, 4-H puts good kids together with other good kids. The kids say it’s mostly about friends and fun. And it turns out they learn good stuff.
Jacey Schlegel has been part of 4-H since she was 8 years old. She’s now 18 and remembers the things she sewed and crocheted a decade ago. The past several years she added all sorts of livestock to show and sell.
Most things in life are simple if you take care of them as you go.
“It teaches you to take responsibility for everything,” Schlegel said. “You learn to keep track of your business. You also learn to manage your time.”
Keifer Kaufman is president of Whistling Bullets, a 4-H shooting sports and archery club. It’s the biggest local club and partners with the Eagle Valley Rod and Gun Club and the Gypsum Shooting Sports Park.
It’s about friends, especially the ones you make growing up through the program. They learn the same life values, Kaufman said.
Winning and losing
You learn about winning and how good it is, because you also learn about losing.
Kaufman is this year’s Grand Champion in Western and Working Ranch riding.
Schlegel competes in junior rodeo and is the 2013 Colorado state Breakaway Roping champion. It says so right there on the belt buckle she wears so proudly.
But they’ve both had their hearts broken.
During Thursday’s swine judging, one father said to a disappointed kid, “This is just one man’s opinion on one day.”
Every kid wants the big purple Grand Champion ribbon, but only one can win it.
What did it teach them?
“That every day is different, and every time is another chance to win. Sometimes it happens for you, but it will never happen if you don’t try,” Kaufman said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It teaches you to take responsibility for everything. You learn to keep track of your business. You also learn to manage your time.”