It was a typical Saturday chore day back on the farm, doing those extra things that never got done during the week. The only thing different about this Saturday was the urgency to get it all done early enough to attend an afternoon county 4-H activities meeting.

It was obvious that my Dad was more engaged than usual, and finally he just couldn’t hold it back any longer — he just blurted out, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you’re going to get a big award this afternoon.” He didn’t tell me what it was, but it was pretty obvious that this was his cue for telling me to kick it into high gear and be prepared to be at my best.

This meant dressing a little nicer, being on time and on my best behavior. There is this ol’ folklore about dads living their lives vicariously through their son. This was the epiphany of this all too familiar scenario. Just as Dad was always front and center in his involvement in all of my 4-H projects, this occasion was the “icing on the cake”. He just couldn’t contain himself in the exuberance of the moment.

When the county extension agent (Johnson) presented me with the Alpha Gamma Rho state achievement award it was like the most special thing that had ever happened in my life. A gold, personalized watch to be held in perpetuity was second only to that of my parents’ sense of pride.

Though there are times when working on the farm that one’s finest jewelry shouldn’t be worn, it was such a statement of achievement that I just couldn’t take it off. But much to the chagrin of my mother, I accidently lost it while moving machinery from one field to another. It slipped off my arm, in the most precarious of situations, and later retrieved in that of an unbelievable fluke.

It was my mother’s relentless determination of faith that found her following an old country road grader down the road that she had been searching with a “fine tooth comb.” In her mind it was a lost cause, except that she and God had a working relationship like none other.

The sun was shining brighter and higher than I had ever seen it, and sure enough there was this bright glistening reflection, almost blinding as she went for the light — it was the watch!

There was nothing that could upstage this experience except, maybe the following year, when I was now enrolled in college. The announcement wasn’t so dramatic, but nonetheless still exciting. It was a more formal notice, that I again had been selected for the State Achievement Award. This time it was a trip to 4-H Congress in Chicago — leadership involvement that more clearly defined my purpose and direction in life.

Thanks to 4-H I’ve never wavered from those values of HEAD-HEART-HANDS that have impacted my life.