I did 4-h for 10 years growing up. It was a family event, so I didn’t have a choice. I showed lambs, cattle, rabbits, and goats. When I was younger my brother or sister would help me in the ring guide me where I was going. I make fun of this now, but my mom made me wear a vest that had a sign that said blind child on it or something. Oh I make her feel guilty about that. Honestly though I never knew it said that until I was like 17 I asked what the paper said. They did it so the judge would know why I was not making eye contact. After my brother and sister got out of 4-H though they couldn’t guide me so my dad bought radios and me an ear peace and guided me around the ring. It was great unless he got his directions mixed up. Once he ran me in to a gate while I was showing a lamb. Thankfully never with a steer, because they would have probably tried to pen me against it.
When I was 5 or 6 I started showing sheep at the state fair in what was called a halter class. I had a real anxious lamb that liked to move so my parents asked me what I did to make him sit still on my knee. I told them I put some of its food in my pocket, and he kept real calm. I would give him some pieces of food when the judge was feeling on another lamb. I think I placed fourth or something, but I never forgot the story.
I hated cattle, because they were so big. I weighed when I first started showing them probably 80 pounds. I would get drug around my yard trying to break them. I feared getting stepped on, but thankfully it only happened once or twice. My brother would get stepped on all the time, so I was cautious. My first steer was named Reggie after Reggie Miller. He was a curly haired steer and ugly according to my parents, but I picked him out at an auction. I think he kissed my hand, so I loved him. I didn’t really want to show cattle, but my dad said he’d get me one if I liked him. I would walk out to the barn and feed him marshmallows, and pet him. I could climb on his back and hug his neck without him standing up. I remember when I had to sell him I was sad, because for the last year I had taken care of him, a meat market bought him which didn’t help my sadness, because I knew what was going to happen to him. It really is a hard lesson to learn, and from that point on I never really got attached to my steers.
I remember when my brother and sister left the fair board thought I was going to quit since I wouldn’t have anyone help me. When my dad told them about the radio idea they tried to fight him on that. I remember at least 2 or 3 people coming by the house telling us I couldn’t show animals anymore because I was blind. After the first fair of me doing it independently they never said anything anymore after that.
At are fair we would have to run a food stand for so many hours for the clubs we attended. I loved this actually. I would take money, get pop, and grab orders. I always liked doing it and meeting the families we’d work with. A lot of kids in 4-H never really got me. It’s hard for me to reflect on that, because I’ve changed since then. I used to walk around with my friends, but I wouldn’t really travel on my own. I find it hard to go home now of days, because I lose so much of my independence I have now. There are no busses or airplanes up there, so I have to depend on people for rides. I could have learnt how to navigate the fairgrounds, but back then it wasn’t important to me.
I enjoyed the state fair way more than the county fair because it was in Indianapolis, and I could listen to the radio all day in a bigger market. I’d get so bored sitting around watching the cows poop and moo that I’d listen to anything. We would usually play cards with some of the kids nearby and that was fun. They also had miniature golf we could go play, and I would always find a way to get in to some sort of trouble. When I was 10 or so we had a red wagon I think it was called a flier. They had a ramp down to the goat barn, and the neighbors to are sheep had one too so I decided we should have races. That didn’t last too long.
I don’t regret 4-h at all, but I didn’t have as much fun at it as my brother and sister did. Like I said I never felt a lot of the people got me. There were a few I was no means lonely, but there was a disconnection I can’t really explain. Those people were probably the ones who’d spend 20 thousand on a cow that will later become hamburger so I don’t understand them either. I knew people that had a nicer facility for their cows than they had for themselves, so yes I’m blind but I’ve got air-conditioning.
Growing up during the summer we’d get up at 5:30 and walk lambs 2 miles on the road before it got to warm, and then repeat after the sun went down. Oh my gosh I still can’t stand lambs, and have no problem eating them. Talk about a stubborn animal they were the worst to try and get to walk. I wish I had Robin back then to herd them.