Sometimes . . .

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Sometimes, you just don’t know what to say.

Sometimes, words fail you.

Sometimes, it seems that no matter what comes to you, it just can’t heal the ache in your heart.

And that’s how it is today. The ache in my heart is big and my tears are many. My friend, Tammy Draper, passed away.

In the time since her death, I’ve done nothing else but think about the huge hole she has left in her family and in our community.

Tammy had so many friends. She was involved in everything. If there was something that needed organized, she was there, lending a helping hand.

I knew her best in the role of 4-H leader. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had a long discussion about why we felt 4-H was so important to our families. She wanted her boys to learn responsibility, leadership and determination. She spent hours volunteering for the organization just to give her kids – and mine – those kinds of opportunities.

I admired her for that and so much more. She knew what was important and didn’t let the little things like the fact her house wasn’t in Martha Stewart condition 24/7 bother her. It was infinitely more important to her to be at a ballgame cheering her kids on, or working in the barn alongside her family. She had her priorities straight.

She always had a smile and I can hear her laughing even now. She and her husband were a great team, working together always. Her mission in life was to raise her boys to be men that they would be proud of some day. And you know what? She was well on the way to accomplishing that goal.

I can’t think of that without the tears falling. But I know Tammy. And I know she wouldn’t want her memory to keep us from continuing on. She would much rather have us put our energy into continuing the things she loved so much. She would want the livestock shows and ballgames to go on.

And so I will. I will continue on, knowing that her spirit is with me. And if I pause, every now and then to let the tears fall, I know she will understand.

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Pretty much the same thing

If you don’t know my family, this essentially is their philosophy.

Courtesy of The Gift. (http://www.thegiftmn.com)

Except occasionally, you could replace “cows” with “pigs” and you’d be spot on.

Getting the word out

Ever have a moment when you are ridiculously proud of a kid (or group of kids) that aren’t your own? Yeah, me too.

One of those moments happened last week when I saw this video. I wrote about their family here when my son stayed with them for a livestock judging camp. They are good people. The whole family. Those same kids, their friends, teachers, family and community are a part of this video. I’m writing about them in my column this week. It’s become a huge deal.

So big that while I was on the phone with the teachers who spear-headed this project, 20/20 called. Yes, THAT 20/20. And then ABC. And this was just after two segments appeared on the morning programs of NBC and CBS. It’s getting crazy.

The best part? The teachers told me as they finished their video they joked about it becoming as big as the Peterson brothers hit, “Farming and I Grow It.” “We looked at each other, laughed and hit ‘upload,’” one of them said. And now they are at a quarter-million hits.

The thing that makes me so proud? Is this group of rural kids and teachers are a class act. They speak with passion and conviction. They are good communicators. They didn’t just complain about something they thought was wrong. They stood up and did something about it.

Good, good morning

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Good morning! It’s Friday. Before a three-day weekend. How could you NOT be in a good mood? Have I mentioned lately I love living in the country?

Gun fights, boots and bling

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Last weekend I attended the Old West Fest, an fundraising event for the Kansas Agricultural Rural Leadership program, or KARL for short. The program trains fledgling Kansas leaders to go on and do great things within the state. I was in Class VI. I’ve yet to do go on and do any “great things” but the experience I had was second to none. Much like my Young Cattlemen’s Conference trip earlier this year, the interaction of class members taught me more than I could have hoped for.

When you believe in a program, you want to do what you can to help keep it alive and growing. A few years back, I co-chaired the Old West Fest. But this year it was my co-worker’s turn. Jennifer Latzke was suckered in asked to be the chair for the event and she did a fabulous job. The event had it all – gun fights at Boot Hill, can-can dancers, barbecue, drinks in a mason jar, cowboy boots and even a little sequins here and there.

Photos courtesy of Kylene Scott.

For those of us who live Dodge City, the whole cheezy cowboy thing can be a little much. And let’s be honest, the gunfight was exactly that. But hey, it’s who we are in Dodge City and there’s something to be said for that. It’s our history and we wear it proudly. Truly, it was a great combination – rural Kansas leaders and Dodge City.

Well, that’s more like it.

Remember yesterday when I was excited for a tenth of an inch of rain? Well, this is more like it.

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Here’s hoping that all the rain gauges across the parched High Plains and Midwest have the same beautiful sight in them.

You know you are from the country (#3)

You know you are from the country when this excites you.

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Yes, that’s just a little over a tenth of an inch of rain. It’s not that a tenth of an inch will do any good in this part of the world where we sorely need it, but it does remind me that it CAN rain. Living in the country makes you realize that rain really does matter – even if it only happens once every three weeks or so, and only if you must suffer when it does.

 

Mother Nature flexed her muscle

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that most of farm country is in a drought. I live in western Kansas. I know it doesn’t rain here often, but not even enough rain to make the weeds grow? That’s tough. And this is the second year for us. Some of our friends in the eastern Corn Belt had flooding last year and are now experiencing drought. Sometimes its just makes you think Mother Nature is mean. Or has a weird sense of humor at the very least.

So flash back a couple of weeks. We had not had any rain for weeks. My family and I were headed out of the driveway one evening. As we looked to our west, clouds were gathering. But we know Mother Nature and her weird sense of humor so we assumed she was just toying with us. How convinced were we? We left sacks of feed in the back of the pickup parked in the driveway. (I realize this is only funny to farm-folk who have ever tried to race the rain home from the coop with a half-ton of feed in the back of the pickup.)

A few hours later, we headed home and the closer we got to our little part of the world, the easier it was to see that it had indeed rained. And not just a little. We pulled into the driveway and I remember seeing a Nesquik yellow container stuck in the mud. Funny, I thought. We only use those as scoops for the chicken feed. When we turned the bend our headlights shone on this.

 
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Not good. This, you see, is our chicken shed. Picked up, dropped and smashed into a gazillion pieces. Also slammed up against our old Yukon. Lucky that Yukon was there, we decided later, or the chicken shed might just of slammed up into our house and caused much more damage. And don’t worry, luckily the chickens had been moved out this shed so all it held were a lot of chicken pens, some feed and a lot of garden paraphernalia.

And in the daylight we found this.

 
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And this.

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And this.

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But you know what? The joke is on Mother Nature. Even though we had to have this kind of damage to get an inch of rain, the things were just things. And in comparison to the kind of damage I know she can do (and here), it was just a little storm. My family and my home are still here and that’s what is important.

You know you are from the country (#2)

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You know you are from the country when a calf bottle becomes a permanent fixture on your kitchen counter for a few weeks.

(More on this development at the Country Chick’s house later.)

The good things

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Probably one of the best parts of the fair is the sense of community the county fair brings. Sure, there are those not-so-great moments when perfectly sane people lose their minds and throw a fit about things that don’t really matter. But I have chosen to ignore those moments for my own sanity. Instead, I’ll think about this year’s fair for the good things that happened. Things like:

    • The happy tears shed by more than just the mom of a last year 4-Her whose 4-H experience culminated in her winning the senior division of Round Robin. Everyone, including those she was competing against, were rooting for her. No, they didn’t throw the competition, but they did cheer as as loud as they could when she was announced the winner. And her mom cried. And so did a few others. She truly loves her animal projects and the experience it has brought her. She’s a sweet girl from a wonderful family. It’s just how things are supposed to work out. Hence, the tears.
    • Watching my boy, who was not a natural in the show ring, finally take home the champion buckle in the intermediate division of Round Robin. It took a lot of practice and a little luck.
    • The evenings spent sitting on tailgates, enjoying the cooler temperatures. Our 4-H club parks our trailers near each other creating a hang-out spot. At this spot, I saw kids high-fiving each other and people hollaring “Congratulations!”

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  • My youngest boy and his buddy making plans to bring their “trailer toys” the next day. What are trailer toys, you ask? Well, of course they are a nearly complete farm set that they can play with at the trailer. And then they way they shared those toys later on, up at the barn, when they set up what can only be described as a state-of-the-art farm scene.

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It all translated to one successful fair. Sure, I’m proud of my son’s purple ribbons and trophies. But, more than that, I’m proud of the what those ribbons represent: hard work, determination and responsibility.