Daily trips to the barn | VailDaily.com

Daily trips to the barn

Scott N. Miller
Scott Miller/Vail DailyMissy Ford has been watching her daughter Joanne participate in 4-H events for 10 years. Ford and her husband Jack have put countless miles on the family trucks over the years.

EAGLE ” Soccer moms don’t shovel, um, stuff.

Parents of 4-H club members often find themselves on the sweatin’ end of a shovel ” that is, when they aren’t loading horses or other livestock into trucks and trailers or hauling kids to 4-H club meetings and events.

All the shoveling, hauling and taxi service pays off when the Eagle County Fair comes along. Some parents take vacation time to be at the fair. Others split duties.

Mary Stephens and her kids are staying in the family camper at the fairgrounds this week. Heading home up the Sweetwater Road is just too much of a chore when kids have to be in Eagle early and are likely to stay late.

“You’ve got to do a lot of juggling, especially this time of year,” Stephens said.

While in Eagle with her two 4-H kids, Mary’s husband Bill is in Dotsero, keeping Stephens’ Nursery, the family business, rolling through it’s high season.

But the juggling is worth it, 4-H parents say.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to practice all sorts of life skills,” said Karen Guzick of Eagle, who has two daughters in 4-H.

One of those skills is helping others.

The Guzick girls, Claire, 9, and Ella, 11, both showed pigs at this year’s fair. Ella was first to get a pig, which was given to her by Joanne Ford, who has won multiple championships with her pigs during her 10 years in 4-H.

“Joanne was a mentor to Ella, and helped her a lot,” Karen Guzick said.

The kids are supposed to do all the work on their projects, and almost all of them do just that. Asked about the help her parents have provided over the years, Ford got a little misty-eyed.

“A lot of my success is due to my folks,” she said.

A lot of parental involvement is transportation.

Ford is 18 now, but her dad, Jack, still drives the trucks. And the years when Joanne was the youth supervisor of the livestock barn in Eagle, her dad and Mike Guzick also drove a lot of other kids’ animals around.

Parents help each other a lot, too.

Earlier this year Karen Guzick threw out her knee. Mike has one artificial forearm. Together, the parents weren’t much good when it came time to wrap their legs of their girls’ horses.

“I probably had 10 parents offer to help,” Karen Guzick said. “They said ‘Whatever you need, whether it’s mucking out a stall or cooking a meal, you just ask.'”

While the parents stick together, they learn early on that 4-H projects belong to the kids.

“If a younger member needs help with projects, a senior member is support to help,” Karen Guzick said. “Joanne has told us, ‘Go away, we’ll take care of this,'”

That sort of thing will prompt parents to do whatever is needed to keep their kids involved in 4-H. Once a kid is committed to a club, there’s a lot to do.

In the Guzicks’ case, the girls have all their animals at the county’s 4-H barn in Eagle. Caring for them takes at least a couple of trips a day to the barn. The horses take more time still, especially if kids are involved in the county’s “Freedom Riders” horse drill team.

“That’s at least three hours every Monday night,” Karen Guzick said.

And, parents, say, 4-H keeps kids’ brains sharp through the summer.

“You have to read books, do math, start and finish projects,” Stephens said. “And you’re learning to care for something else. It’s just invaluable.

“Kids are only young for so long,” Stephens added. “If your kids are learning and enjoying themselves, that makes it all worth it.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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