May 17th…………“IN YOUR MINNESOTA HOMETOWN, GRANDPA, WERE THERE ANY FARMING CLUBS OR ORGANIZATIONS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO BELONG TO”?
“Psssst!! Psssssssssssst!!!” with her hushed mouth alert, a farm wife leaned into the ear of the lady neighbor sitting next to her as she whispered, “Poor Clarice, she sure had some tough luck with her donuts”!!! With an acquiescing nod of empathy, these two unknowing ladies went about sipping their coffee and relishing the taste of these “failed donuts”. There’s an old saying that, “what goes around, comes around”, and when their remarks “came around” to our mother, Clarice, well…..she had a hearty laugh over the birthed misconception of her farmer lady friends!!! 😉 What those ladies thought were a bad batch of donuts were, in reality, one of mother’s many successful cookie recipes called, “Honey Jumble Cookies”.
These “donut” ladies, and other rural families, were enjoying the fellowship and meeting time of the local KEE 4-H CLUB that was being hosted at our family farm that day which lay three miles northwest of Kiester, Minnesota.
Earlier that day, numerous trucks and pickups began arriving at our farm and rolled to a stop in various shady places to park in our expansive farm yard. Down came gangplanks for unloading the clubber’s specific animal that were to take part in the KEE 4-H Club meeting that would be guided by the honorable Mr. Dale Wolfe along with other respected 4-H leadership from our close-knit community.
Founded in 1902 and nationally incorporated in 1914, the 4-H Clubs of America were created to instruct rural youth in improved farming and farm-homemaking practices. Other goals of this fine organization were to promote citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills for youth by experiential, “hands on” learning. Where elder generations of farmers were somewhat reticent to try new discoveries and techniques in agriculture, their young and teenaged children were more open to trying those new ideas and parents, seeing their obvious viability, were now more willing to come along and incorporate those new methods of animal husbandry or soil management (among many 4-H topics) to make family farms even better as sound, money-making businesses.
A gentleman by the name of Mr. A. B. Graham, from Ohio, in 1902 was one of the founders who actually started these young people groups by calling them “The Tomato Club” or “The Corn Growing Club”. As a symbol for this new youth movement, Mr. Jessie Shambaugh, created a four leafed clover pin, around 1910, with the letter H on each leaf of the pin. Each “H” on the pin represented his concept for H..ead, H..eart, H..ands and H..ealth; therefore this pin represented the centering on giving the agricultural youth a “four-squared education”.
To focus the mindset of these fine, young agrarians, the club motto is often recited as a team during the meetings……..“As a loyal 4-H member, I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my family, my club, my community, my country and my world”.
Being only knee-high to a burp, in those early childhood days of our farm life, I could only stand and gawk in awe of the fun, farm fellowship my older brother, Lowell, and big sister, Rosemary, were experiencing in the KEE 4-H Club!!!
There they stood, with halters on their young Holsteins and a lead rope for keeping those bovine beauties under control. As we hosted that meeting on our farm that day, Dale Wolfe and other 4-H leaders were educating these young folk on how to make their animals behave in preparation for the summer’s biggest party……..The Faribault County Fair in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
Sister Rosemary was not about to be undone by her diminutive, teenaged size as she used every ounce of her strength to keep her Holstein heifer in control; even if it meant pigeon-toeing her feet in the dirt to show that bovine that she was the BOSS of the moment for the benefit of watching judges.
From 4-H T-shirts, to 4-H flags, to 4-H garrison caps and pins…….there was great pride in belonging to such a fine youth organization that promoted family, farming and all that was right in being countryfolk and supporting all that was good in the world around us.
Eventually, after much hard work and learning, the grand celebration of the summer had arrived in the form of the Faribault County Fair. This thrilling event took place each year in the city of my birth, Blue Earth, Minnesota!!
I was agog at the great adventure that big brother and sister were about to embark upon with their respective animals. Just think, to live with and camp out by their animals in the town of Blue Earth for the duration of the Fair. And, just think of the times of youthful adventures each day after their animals were properly taken care of.
From cultivating our farm crops to now cultivating glorious times with friends and family, Lowell and Rosie loved every fun minute of joy that they invested upon the grounds of that summertime festival. Cotton candy melted in your mouth as many a stroll was taken in the evenings down the kaleidoscope-colored Midway of games and rides. Hamburgers, hotdogs and a plethora of other goodies knew no limit as many fellow 4-H friends spent their dollars at The Kiester Civic & Commerce Food Stand.
There’s a warm feeling that’s held in a little boy’s heart, even when he’s now a gray-haired old man like I am today. That warm feeling has to do with a piece of 4-H equipment that was used by our older brother and sister in those sweet days of yesteryear. It was a handsome wooden box of about five feet long, by 2 feet high and about two feet deep. The wainscoting lumber construction had been painted in a shiny white enamel paint that made it look regal. And, on top of that “tack” (equipment) box was a magnificent decal that was a green four-leaf clover design with the famous 4-H letters within it. That wooden creation had thick, rope handles built into each end for carrying about. That box became “home-base” for our elder siblings as they lived with their animals and prepared to compete for ribbons and trophies. Even when our family moved to Washington State in 1967, that “magic box” came with us and provided a million marvelous memories of the very happy, golden days of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉