Welcome back to the corner! This is a very hard letter to write as I use this time to say "Good Bye" to so many friends and family. (Someone else will still give you the latest 4-H news on a monthly basis with the help of my good friend Chuck Hill.) But you know 4-H is about family and that is my reason to head back to Oklahoma. No, Lamar has not fired me and I have not gone crazy; but after 22 years of being a resident of Alabama it is time to go HOME! The kids have moved and started school already in the same school I attended years ago. As typical of my kids, they are playing baseball/softball, showing cattle, participating on judging teams, calving-out fall calves and Austin is hunting raccoons and coyotes. All have settled in very nicely and, in fact, Kayla has already made the front page of the local paper.
I would like to say "Thank You" to Jim Allen and the board at AFC for allowing me to come into your homes once a month for the past 30 months. We have shared some wonderful stories, and we have shared the heartbreak of lost youth, moms, dads and grandparents. It has been very encouraging to see the support and love shown between youth with a 4-H background. It has been and always will be FAMILY. 4-H is what we make it; with great parents and volunteers like you it will continue to be STRONG!
I have enjoyed my four years of employment with Extension. Yes, I know some of you say, "He has been around 4-H forever," and I have been as a volunteer since Blake and Austin started to show. But, as I came on board, a lot of changes were taking place. Now you might say for better or worse —- your freedom to say! I will tell you the team has had to be creative in this age of change. Some changes were due to lack of money and some to lack of people or manpower. Which ever the case, we have all been affected; some positive, while others on a negative side. Now remember I say this in love, if you are one of the ones who thinks it has been negative in your area, please step back and see if you could have helped or done more during this transition. I know today it is easy to see the shortcomings in others but try to see how you can help before you condemn. I say this because it is your kids and youth who are feeling the pain of conflict. We have hardened our old hearts and we don’t get hurt like they do. Or even worst, they see us get mad or hear something we say and they take it ‘to the bank’ and start saying or believing the same way. When ‘truth be known’ we were wrong to start with. Shame on us; our kids deserve better and it is up to us to try harder to show them the RIGHT WAY! If I have not made you mad, keep reading it might be in the next paragraph.
4-H Helmet and Horses – this was met by many with hard feelings because it was not the way we had always done it. It had nothing to do with fashion or history and everything to do with SAFETY. Believe me, we thought long and hard before we changed the rules, but in the end we are here to provide a safe, learning environment for our/your kids and to do that, research says be safe, Wear a Helmet. Lamar never wavered but stood up to many negative attacks on him and others in the beginning of this rule. Thank you to those who could see the big picture and know our main goal was to have fun, learn and meet others all while being safe!
Now the "nine-year-old 4-H issue": Shame on you adults who caused so many NEGATIVE feelings on this issue. Again, it is a safety issue to the physical and mental development of our children. Bottom line is we are here to teach and develop youth in positive areas and that is to use the research out there. Extension is about taking science to the public and I know sometimes it is hard to believe what we hear or read. But the fact is 4-H is 9-19 years of age and that age is what we support.
Even though I do not agree in everything that has happened on the state level, I am glad to see other opportunities show up. I have seen many different state programs and know we can have things look different here in Alabama. If that is to happen, YOU step up and be a part of the solution! Don’t sit back and point a finger, which helps no one —- especially the kids. Get out and help make a change.
I have heard a group talk about Bob Ebert. Bob does a wonderful job and is a great asset to Alabama. Is Bob the best people-person in the world? Maybe not. Is he fair? Yes. Is he detailed? Yes. Many have said it is his job to make the State Steer Show pay out more money and I say NO, it is our job as parents to step up and form groups of booster clubs and scholarship committees. Don’t lay the blame on someone who is doing his job. Pick up the phone and ask folks in your area for support or money. It is a state show not a Montgomery show!
Please realize I am not wanting to be ugly. I just want EVERONE to know we are only limited by what we as individuals are afraid to take on and be a part of! Please take this as a chance to say, "How can I help my child learn and earn more with this project?" Remember it is about the learning of the youth and not the dollars (I will tell you we can have BOTH with hard work and a group of dedicated volunteers.) People want to say, "Look what the Houston show does." Yes look, they have over 1,000 volunteers and 10,000 sponsors! How many can you find for next year? It has to start somewhere; are you ready to make a move?!
We have a great Cattlemen’s Association and I want to make sure if you are not a member that you call Martha or Selina at (334) 265-1867. It will be the best $30 you have ever spent (well except for maybe your mission gifts after tithes). Thank you, Billy and Reid, for all you do for the youth of Alabama. The AJCA hosted another great show this summer and have plans for bigger and better things to come. Jump in and be a part of this group!
Once again I want to say "Thank You" to Jim and AFC for allowing me to bring you a small picture of what is being accomplished by our Alabama 4-H Youth. You are truly a Wonderful State Youth Resource!
May God Bless and Keep You and Yours.