July 16, 2013 — While growing up, fair season was always a time to relax, eat some fried Twinkies and test my fear levels on the seemingly poorly put together rides.
Then when I entered high school, my parents forced me to participate in 4-H.
I was 14 years old and in the beginners bracket where I was in direct competition with the very 8-year-old children I counseled at 4-H camp.
I was in a very confusing place: should I let my unrelenting competitive side win and potentially scar my campers from competition for life? Or should I be the nice role model and let them gain confidence by allowing them to beat a teenager?
My competitive nature won.
It was the Plumas County Fair of 2006, and although my countenance was calm, shy and collected, an engulfing wave of pride and competition surged throughout me, pushing me to obtain those beautiful, shiny blue ribbons.
I participated in three categories, sewing, horse and swine, and despite having a serious lack of knowledge in the fields, I was sure that my fully developed hand-eye-coordination and advanced age would snag me all the blue ribbons I desired.
I walked into those arenas, nose in the air, so sure of the awards I was to receive and soon realized most of the 8-year-olds were raised with horses and pigs and knew more of these country things than I could ever hope to understand.
Panic set in, but I chose to persevere.
My first event was sewing. My expertly hemmed blue and green-checkered pajama pants were sure to stir up excitement, I thought. Although I was embarrassed to saunter down the fashion show walkway, er, aisle between folding chairs, I mustered up the confidence to win that coveted ribbon. But somehow I was marked down for inappropriate undergarments, although absolutely nothing was showing beneath my floor-length pants and quarter-sleeve shirt. So although I did not place, I convinced myself the judging was rigged.
Next was the horse show. Thankfully, I gained some of my pride back and took home a blue ribbon for show, probably because I was taller than the horse’s stomach and could actually control a horse. Oh well, I had a ribbon and I tried not to gloat in the presence of my camper.
Finally, it was time to show my market pig named Dandelion, or as I called her, Dandi.
Dandi and I had a special relationship, we would race down the hill in my backyard, I would fight with her to force her off of her lazy rump for walks and she would nuzzle my legs.
I showed her nothing but love during our few months together, yet, somehow, in the show ring she was a fighter and I was marked down because I could not control her.
That year, I walked away with a few ribbons and shame due to my poor performance.
Now, seven years later, I look back at my limited two years participating in 4-H and I am slightly ashamed at how I conducted myself; however, I also know that had I not participated in 4-H, I would have never had the respect for farmers, ranchers and pig owners that I do now.
4-H was life-enriching and I would never trade back those humiliating years, save, of course, my blatant ribbon envy.
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