4-H 'steered' this girl the right direction

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By Alice Du Pont

I went to the 65th annual Steer and Market Swine Show and Sale last Thursday night and, as usual, it was a lot of fun. I was surprised to find that this is the 100th anniversary of 4-H. During the program the masters of ceremonies, Billy Poston, asked everyone who was an alumnus of 4-H to stand. Then nearly 200 people sang "Happy Birthday."

That was a very proud moment for me.

I was very active in the 4-H Club in the High Bridge community. As I thought back over my growing up years and the important role 4-H played in my life, it turned out that while I never thought to add it up, 4-H had influenced my life greatly.

It was through 4-H that went on my first camping trip. We spent a week at this place called Cherry Lake with girls from Madison and Marion counties. The school bus took us and I was excited. I don't remember how old I was but I it was the first time I was away from home without family. I met a lot of people, but this one girl Margaret (I can't think of her last name) from Greenville and I became very good friends. We were camp pals. For years, we kept in touch. Last Thursday night, I wondered whatever happened to Margaret.

It was through 4-H that I went to my first state fair in Tampa. The High Bridge Club won the local and regional competition for our demonstration on "How to Properly Cook Broccoli." The team was made up of me, Virginia Brady, Shirley Bryant and Betty Ann Williams. I can't begin to remember how many times we had to practice cooking that broccoli. But I never cook broccoli today until it's limp and grayish looking. In fact, I won't even eat broccoli that’s not cooked the 4-H way.

One of my 4-H projects was in the category of dairy. I don't know why I selected dairy because we only had the one cow and it wasn't even a milk cow. Still, I stayed with my record-keeping and writing my narrations. At the end of the year, I earned a gold (first place) dairy pin. I still have the pin and I am going to wear it this month in honor of 4-H.

There is one thing that 4-H couldn't teach me. No matter how our extension agent Ursula Hicks Williams (also my great aunt) tried, making an apron eluded me. I ripped that seam out so many times, I gave up. And she gave up on me, too. But I Iearned how to pin and hem a pair of slacks or dress. Before I got too lazy to do my own minor work, I kept a sewing kit at all times.

Between 4-H and my mother, I learned about preserving food in jars and in the freezer. While I don't use jars, I know what can be frozen directly and I know what has to be blanched before freezing.

Every November we went to the North Florida Fair together. After we set up our displays, we went to look at all of the other 4-H displays. I'll never forget Jackson County because their display was almost always centered around peanuts.

4-H had a very active public speaking program and all 4-Hers were expected to speak "clearly and distinctly" at all times. At club meetings, we had to take turns speaking to other members. The public speaking helped a few of my fellow 4-Hers gain confidence.

It was through 4-H that I spent my first night in a dormitory on the campus of Florida A & M University. I don't remember what it was called – somehow 4-H Congress comes to mind but I could be wrong – but campers from all over the state converged on the campus for a week of seminars, leadership sessions and other training, mostly in home economics for the girls and agriculture for the boys.

I have to say that 4-H was a wonderful organization for me. If you're looking for something to interest your son, daughter or other relatives, look into 4-H. After all, it's been around 100 years without a blemish.