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Monday, June 24, 2013

County Fair: or how I won first prize

It is a wonderful organization.

When my brothers and sister and I were young, we were members of 4-H. Which is kind of like boy scouts and girls scouts rolled up together for all ages at once. In my mind, as a mother often attempting to get four kids to four different locations simultaneously, this sounds pretty appealing. All of us belonged to the same chapter, the older members assisted the younger members and together we learned some new skill.

I loved 4-H. It was one of the happiest memories of my childhood. We met once a month in the winter and twice a month in the summer. We learned things like leathercraft, sewing, cooking, canning, embroidery, farm skills (by which I mean; how to candle eggs, curry horses, raise a calf...), and drama.

Not that we needed anyone to teach us about drama, we had plenty of that all on our own, it was channeling that in to production of  a play.  One year we did a skit with Dave Brubeck's Take 5 as the soundtrack and the actors pantomimed the actions. Much to our surprise, we place first for our region.  Then we went on to county, which is where our stage fright got to us and our winning streak ended.

Love the colors, though my floss was
 seldom this tidy.
My favorite skill I learned in 4-H was embroidery. It became a passion almost immediately. What was not to love? It was portable, hardly any mess, so many colored threads, easy to make your own designs, the cost of entry was low and my mother already had all of the supplies!

So when the County Fair rolled around, I was ready with my sampler. I had designed and worked on it all winter and was ready for the fair.  It was pressed, mounted (thank you mom), framed and entered to into the competition. I thought it was very lovely, but was a bit concerned when I saw the other entries when we were dropping it off for the for the judging.

The week or two prior to the fair seemed to go on forever. Of course, just when I had stopped  thinking
(read fixating) about the judging and where I had placed, my mother called me into the kitchen (where she was canning, whatever vegetable that had been harvested from the garden in abundance), and said: " I got a phone call today."

(Now that may seem like nothing, getting phone call, but in those days, using the phone was expensive and was not used frivolously, it was almost an event, think: messages from the outside world.)


"Your sampler won first prize for your age group and you get five dollars in prize money."my mother said as she deftly lifted the jars out of the boiler bath.

"Five dollars? I didn't know they would give me any money! I thought I just got a ribbon, do I get a ribbon, and the five dollars? What else did they say, anything else..." my questions coming out faster then my mother could respond.

My mother had embroidered this image
on my pillowcases for me when I was little.
"Enough! You get a ribbon and the money. Now make yourself useful and grab that lid for me. I thought your embroidery turned out well, (as she slipped some more jars into the boiler bath) so I'm not surprised."

Five dollars was more money than I had ever had previously in my life. It was riches and I spent more time thinking of how to spend it, than any other five dollars in my entire life.

For me, there is much joy in the creative process, sometimes more than the actual completion of the project.

Those days in 4-H were a gift to me. I may have learned embroidery or many other skills, but what I really learned was:  the joy in doing,  is what makes the endeavor have value.


  1. It has been a very long time since I have been to a fair. I love looking at all of the homemade gifts and animals.

    1. Me too! thank you for your comment, it means a lot to me.

  2. That was the year I won the crewel work entry for my purple hippopotamus. And then I got to "run" into the love of my life's arms only to be passed over by someone taller, Lori. What fun that "Take Five" skit was. 4-h was especially nice because we didn't have school together but got that time together. Thanks for the memory. And congratulations on being a fair judge this year.

  3. That is right! I remember your purple hippopotamus! Those days were pretty wonderful. I really enjoyed working with the 4H kids last night. Thank you for your comment, it means so much to me.


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