A birthday gift to remember 

(Journal stock photo by Jennifer Theurer.)

My birthday just happens to be in the middle of National 4-H Week so it seems fitting to tell you about one of the most memorable gifts I ever received. One year, my birthday gift from my aunt was a lamb. My aunt was a 4-H member when she was young and has been a loyal 4-H supporter for most of her adult life. Her three daughters were also 4-H members, and she thought giving me a lamb would convince my dad, her younger brother, that I needed to be in 4-H too. My dad is the guy who said, “I’m too old to be in 4-H” whenever I brought up joining. 

Jennifer Theuer
Jennifer Theurer

The lamb came with a black and white goat because lambs do better when they have a buddy. Soon Pepsi, the goat, and Charlie Brown, the lamb, were making themselves at home on a place that hadn’t seen anything other than cows and horses for several decades. 

Our place started to look like Fort Knox after a while because goats can escape through spaces big enough for the tip of their nose. There were boards baling wired to every gap. Years later I learned that after the goat pen is built, you’re supposed to throw a bucket of water at it and if any gets on the other side you start over. I can confirm that this is true because even though my dad wasn’t convinced to let me join 4-H that year, my experiences with sheep and goats didn’t end with Charlie Brown and Pepsi. 

Later on I went and married an ag teacher. When our sons were born, I said no livestock until both children could walk on their own because I knew as soon as my husband left on an overnight trip every one of the dang things would get out and tour the countryside. He obliged me there. I even tried to use my dad’s “I’m too old to be in 4-H” logic. It didn’t work. Our oldest set his mind to showing sheep and being in 4-H from a very young age and, as I’ve mentioned in previous columns, his dad knows how to drive a pickup and trailer. Then our youngest son didn’t care for showing sheep as much, so he got goats. Thankfully, we had pretty good luck keeping the goats in their pen even after it failed the water test. 

Tests are a big part of agriculture and in this week’s cover story Amy Bickel talks to Jay Young, a western Kansas farmer who is known for testing the boundaries of Mother Nature with his high-yielding corn. Corn also makes an appearance on our Home and Family page with another Homemade in the High Plains cookbook recipe for Sweet Cornbread from High Plains Journal’s former livestock advertising representative Nick Wells. The Corn Belt state of Iowa hosts a yearly gathering for steam-powered agricultural equipment giving enthusiasts and HPJ contributor David Murray an opportunity to see them in action. All of those stories and more await in this week’s issue. 

Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or [email protected]