As a charter member of the Flaxton Go-Getter 4-H club, 4-H went on to become the “centerpiece” of my life. Most everything i ever accomplished, I owe to 4-H. Not only did I pledge my head, hands, heart, and health to better living, I pledged my life.
My Dad started the Flaxton Go-Getter 4-H club, the first boys club in Burke County, and went on to support me in every aspect of 4-H. He not only supported me but that of every member of the club. He helped them select calves for their projects and physically hauled them to wherever they needed to be transported. Be it that of the county fair or local achievement days. He asked for nothing in return – just the best of his kids, a winning combination, for which the club still stands as the oldest boys’ club in that region of North Dakota. That in itself is a tribute to my Dad, for I don’t think he ever knew when his tank was almost empty. He ran like it was full all the time.
It was on a Saturday, a big chore day on the farm, when my Dad said, “We’re quitting early, so get yourself ready to go to town.”
Much to my surprise, we headed right to the Court House, directly to the County Extension Office. I was there to accept congratulations from the County Agent for winning the North Dakota State Achievement Award, an Alpha Gamma Rho gold watch. The next year I won it again and was awarded a trip to 4-H Congress in Chicago.
On another occasion, the County Agent called me on a Saturday morning and asked if I could like to go to a regional livestock judging contest. Because I was willing to do anything to get out of doing chores, I agreed to go. But I had no expectation of even being competitive, let alone winning.
As they read off the names of the ”top ten” high individuals in the contest, I was getting more and more anxious, as some of my teammates’ names were included. Not that I wasn’t happy for them, but I somehow thought that maybe I knew more about livestock than some of them.
When they announced my name as the winner of the contest, it was about the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a livestock judge.
What I didn’t know, was how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy that was yet to become. It gave me a sense of direction while going to college and has served me well in my professional years as a livestock judge.
Though I give my Dad a lot of credit for the successful 4-H years of my life, it was the County Extension Agents that really made it happen.
They groomed me and submitted my name for the state 4-H recognition in a way that I could never have accomplished on my own. County Agents Johnson and Nordbo were the two for which I’m most indebted. Johnson got the ball rolling for me to win those prestigious state achievement awards. Still, it was Nordbo that made that renowned introduction to livestock judging.
Most of my achievement status was based on the many grand-champion steers that I showed over the years. The implausibility of my father picking out all of those baby beef calves, instead of myself, almost seemed unfair. I always felt that it was my Dad that should be getting all this recognition.
Nevertheless, he seemed proud to be a part of it all and encouraged me to get as much out of 4-H as possible. With my mother as a cheerleader, I didn’t lack for encouragement.
However, it was my County Extension Agents that gave me direction for continuing my education. There was never any doubt in my mind about why I was going to college. I simply wanted to become a County Agent.
As fate would have it, this was never to be. Although, I certainly tried to make it happen, quitting the best job I ever had to go back to North Dakota to become a County Extension Agent. This didn’t last long, for I was soon invited back to Oscar Mayer & Co.
I received a call from the company asking if I still thought North Dakota was the best place to live. And I knew in an instant that that was a call of “divine guidance,” for I was soon to realize that I missed both the income and the challenge of “industry level” management responsibility.
Right out of college, I was offered a County Extension position in the neighboring county where I grew up. This seemed too good to be true. I was lured away by South Dakota State University, which assured me that I could go into Extension work anytime and that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
All of this proved to be correct, but had it not been for 4-H none of it would have been proven to be the foundation from which I built my future. Without 4-H, there never would have been the opportunity of good fortune. 4-H filled the tank so full that there was never an excuse for letting it go empty.