Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

4-H An Alternative to Delinquincy

Me and my first 4-H calf. I'm the nerd in the cowboy hat.

Twelve was an important age in the Stringam family.
It was when one finally got to join 4-H.
With the grown-ups.
No end of excitement.
First, there was the all-important choosing of the calf.
Then there was the twice daily ritual of feeding said calf.
Accomplished for the first day by me, and thereafter by George.
For the entire six years I was in 4-H.
Ahem . . .
There were the monthly meetings.
Where we were expected to hand in our record books - a concise documentation of our calf's daily diet, inevitable weight gain, and any other pertinent information.
Frantically scribbled half an hour before the meeting started.
Or during the meeting.
Moving on . . .
Twice a year, we were loaded into cars and taken on a 'calf tour'.
Where we exclaimed, more or less knowledgably, over each other's calves. And then, more importantly, had a wonderful dinner at one of the homes.
Usually one of the family's of Hungarian descent.
The best cooks in the entire world.
At the end of the year, we loaded our now-enormous darlings into trucks and headed into Lethbridge for the final show and sale.
Beyond exciting.
Three days of meeting new people (i.e. boys).
Walking along the midway and eating 'fair' food. (Foot-long hot dogs. Hamburgers. Corn on the cob. Doughnuts. Cotton Candy. Chocolate. Popcorn.)
Attending the dance.
Sleeping in the dorms.
Oh, yes. And grooming and showing and selling our calves.
And then, more exciting still, the club trip.
Where the club members, with their families, would embark, together, on a journey to . . . somewhere wonderful.
We toured all over Alberta and into Montana and Washington.
And saw . . . stuff.
One trip, in particular, stands out.
We had travelled into Washington and planned to camp at a brand-new and ultra modern campground.
Which, according to the pamphlet, was home to an enormous swimming pool and other amazing features.
It was the hottest day of the year.
And air conditioning hadn't been invented yet.
Our caravan pulled into the campsite and ground to a halt.
There were trees.
And water hydrants.
And little else.
Apparently, the pictures in the brightly-colored pamphlet had been artist's renderings.
Of amenities that would 'some day' be part of the campground.
Us kids gathered around the giant hole that would one day be a swimming pool.
And sighed.
Our parents started to set up camp.
It was hot.
One of the dad's hooked a garden hose up to a hydrant and started to clean off a table.
Another Dad filled a pitcher to add to the radiator of his over-heated truck.
They looked at each other.
Hose, squirting cool water.
Pitcher, filled with equally cool water.
Hottest day of the year. (I know. I already said that. But it really was.)
Pool that only existed on paper.
It was a no brainer.
The fight was on.
By the time it ended, every single person in the campsite was soaked.
More than soaked.
If you were moving. You were a target.
Let me rephrase that.
If you were breathing, you were a target.
A group of moms were sitting in a safe (i.e. dry) place, watching the fun and laughing uproariously (real word - I looked it up).
My brother, George, spotted them.
They were dry.
This was unacceptable.
He filled a bucket with water and . . . waited.
They saw him standing there and, staring in disbelief, slowly got to their feet.
"No, George!"
Begging availed them nothing.
In a moment, they were as soaked as the rest of us.
The fight lasted most of the afternoon, and, by the time it was finished, everyone was wet, cool, and happily exhausted.
Much the same condition we would have been in if the pool really had existed.
I don't remember much else about that particular trip.
Everything else paled when compared to "The Water Fight'.
Six years of experiences.
Of growing up.
I miss those times.
I suppose they still have it.
4-H, I mean.
And fun.
I wish I was still part of it.


  1. Ah, 4-H! I remember writing in my record book on the way to the meeting (kind of like how I finished my math homework in english class the period before, and so on and so forth). There was nothing like going to the fairs, or competing in the demonstrations/public speaking. Good times....

  2. I was in 4H for 7 years, have many of the same memories as you! Thanks for the chance to reminisce!

  3. I LOVE 4-H. The New York State Fair has an entire building dedicated to it! I cant wait to go this year and see what is happening there! Thanks for linking to NOBH!

  4. When we get back to the states I want the kids to join 4H, not something they have in England or if they do it is called something else. My kids love animals, not sure they would ever sell anything they had though:)


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