Cash Drennan, 17 years old, is a junior at Ballinger High School. His sister, Keni Jo, is 13 years old and in 8th grade. Their sister, Deesa, is 10 years old and in 5th grade. Their cousin, Kenli Schwadner, is 11 years old in 5th grade. The one thing that they have in common, other than being family, is that they are all members of the Runnels County 4H club and they all show lambs in livestock shows around the state. The 4H’ers show fine wool, medium wool and fine wool cross.
Cash has been showing lambs for 9 years. Tara Drennan, the mother of the 3 siblings, says that they are the 3rd generation of the family to show lambs, “My father showed lambs, my sister and I showed lambs in New Mexico, and now our kids show lambs.”
The kids are what seem to constitute of the typical 4H’er; They show animals but also have numerous other endeavors. Cash plays football and basketball on Ballinger’s varsity team, he is in the band, is a member of FFA, a member of Rotary Interact, of DECA, participates in the 4H skillathon and also takes college courses. Cash is also president of the 4H club. Keni Jo participates in Duds to Dazzle, food challenge, 4H photography and the skillathon. Deesa shows lambs and she also participates in 4H photography, livestock judging, food challenge and Duds to Dazzle.
For a family as busy as the Drennans, Cash has found a way to make it all work, “It’s not hard, you just have to manage your time, really. I’m pretty good at keeping it all balanced.” This is the 9th year that Cash will be showing lambs so he’s become an old hand at it and helps the others. But he says with 18 lambs, it’s about more than just each kid and their lambs, “Everyone takes part as a team. One person makes the bucket of feed, one person pours the bucket, one person fills the water, one person feeds the dog and so on. We all pull together.” Tara and her husband, Charlie, also pitch in every day to help out. Tara and Charlie do the trimming of the lambs for the shows. The kids wash the lambs. Everyone has a multiple roles to play in the daily work.
It’s obvious when you see the kids in action that their system works like a finely tuned machine. The lambs’ pens are clean and orderly, there aren’t pieces of equipment or supplies lying around the area because each item and the supplies are in the place designated for them.
While I’m there, the kids each get a lamb, put a halter on it and lead them to the lamb walker machine. There is no bickering or disagreements. It’s done with quiet efficiency, just one of the many jobs that they do every day to raise top quality show animals.
Raising one or two show animals is expensive. Raising 18 – 20 lambs every year is mind-numbingly expensive. The Drennan’s buy some of their lambs but Tara’s dad also helps out, “Dad will purchase lambs and send them to us because he showed and he knows how it is.” Their feed bill alone usually runs about $500 per month and that doesn’t include specialty feed as show season approaches. “The feed is already mixed. Closer to show will be special feed such as barley or corn depending on if the sheep needs more muscle,” Cash points out.
This is Kenli’s first year judging. She lives in Ballinger but keeps her lambs at the Drennan’s farm. It’s obvious that she’s having fun and enjoying the work. She says that every day can be a learning experience, “I have two fine-wool lambs. It was a bit more work than I was expecting. The most exciting part of it is getting to show my animal this year. I was surprised at how stubborn the lambs can be but it gets easier the more that you work with them. I have one lamb that doesn’t want to walk unless there is another lamb right in front of it.”
This is the second year for Deesa to show but she knew what to expect, “It’s a lot of work but it gets easier. But, I also knew what to expect from watching Cash and Keni Jo show all of these years. The most challenging part is feeding them because they can be really stubborn. Cash shears them but I wash them.”
Keni Jo is in her 5th year of showing lambs and says that the work gets easier, “The work isn’t hard if you do it right. It’s just how to do it because it can be stressful for me and others in my family. It’s a mixture. When the animals frustrate you, you just have to cope with it.” She also talks about the amount of work at the shows, “It can seem overwhelming at the shows because there are so many people there. But, there are some really fun moments and it’s not something that everyone gets to enjoy.”
Deesa talks about the 4H Duds to Dazzle competition, “Usually it’s a team of 4 or us. We take, like, an old pair of jeans and then fix them up and show them. There are 3 categories, wearable; non-wearable; accessory. Once you get them fixed up, you have to do a presentation where you tell the judges who you’d market it to, how you’d market it and what it cost to make it.”
According to Texas A&M Agrilife, the Duds to Dazzle is part of their clothing and textile program, “The 4-H Clothing & Textile Project learn about fibers and fabrics, wardrobe selection, clothing construction, comparison shopping, fashion interpretation, understanding of style and design, proper grooming, poise in front of others, and personal presentation skills. The Texas 4-H Duds to Dazzle Clothing & Textiles Competition goes one step beyond, utilizing the knowledge and skills learned in the project, while increasing awareness of the impact of the clothing & textile industry on the environment, specifically the waste stream. In the competition, teams of 4-H members will re-design and repurpose discarded garments.”
Cash says that the cost of showing around the state is expensive, “You have the livestock show entrance fees, parking fees, hotel for a week, food and gas.” Tara, who teaches 1st grade at Ballinger Elementary, says that the kids will miss school as they travel around showing their lambs, “The county agent sends a list to the school with the days that the kids will miss school. We usually take their work with them and they’ll do it at the show or they’ll do it on the weekend when we get back. We ask the kids to be responsible and do their homework. Charlie and I are blessed because the kids are really good at school and at doing their homework.” Tara says that the cost is worth it, “Sometimes people get turned off because they say that it costs too much. But, at the end of the day, it teaches our kids responsibility and that’s worth something.”
Perhaps the most common theme among 4H’ers is the sense of community, of being part of something bigger than yourself. Tara says that Runnels County 4H is good at that, “Our county club members and agent are really good about helping each other. It’s like one, big family. We’re proud of what our kids accomplish and what other kids accomplish and they’re proud of what we accomplish. We prefer that they stay busy rather than sitting at home playing video games.”
Over the years, their lambs have done well at shows, including Cash’s grand champion at the Ballinger livestock show. Kenli Jo has placed twice at Houston. Of the Drennan lambs won a sell slot at the Houston livestock show. Their lambs have also placed in San Angelo and Dallas.
The newspaper will feature a different 4H or FFA member each week in a series of articles over the new few months. If you are a member of 4H or FFA and are interested in being interviewed for an article, you can email me at email@example.com.
We wish to thank Marty Vahlenkamp, the Runnels County Extension Agent, who proposed the series of articles. If you’d like more information about 4H, you can contact Vahlenkamp at (325) 365-2219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.