The 4-H Life - Braden Hoppe
When someone says that 4-H is a way of life, they're correct. It's not a hobby or an endeavor to pursue in your leisure time, it's a true way of life, that requires sacrifice, determination and drive. There is an 11-year old young man who live in Winters, named Braden Hoppe, who embodies those principles.
This year Hoppe won Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion heifer at the Runnels County Junior Livestock show. The show is just 1 of 11 or so shows the family takes part in every year, "I like the shows because you can make a lot of good friends and remain friends with them through high school and beyond."
Hoppe's story, like so many stories of 4-H youth, started long before he raised his first show animal. His parents, Danna and Chris, were both part of 4-H and FFA growing up. They've passed on that knowledge and experience to Braden, who has seemingly embraced it. Hoppe's mother, Danna, is a social studies teacher. Hoppe's father, Chris, owns Power Flex Services and Hardrock Resources. Spirit and determination are a family creed.
As we go outside to look at his show animals, I asked Hoppe about what weight he wants his steer and heifers to be at for the shows. He looked at me with a quizzical look, as if he couldn't believe that I just asked that question, and spoke matter-of-factly, for almost 2 minutes, "We don't have a predetermined weight that we want them at. Each steer and heifer are different. It depends on their bone structure and their frame. We look at them, weigh them, determine what we need to work on and change their diet accordingly. You can't say, 'Well, I want this steer at 1,200 lbs.' It depends on his frame and body. You look at the loin and the back and every part of it. Sometimes you need to work them out more. Sometimes it's just changing their diet. You are always adjusting." Consider me educated. Mom looks at me and smiles, "He'll talk your ear off about cattle. He's not shy about talking." He might be 11-years old in human years, but in cattleman years he's 11 going on 30.
The young man is also quick to point out some of the challenges, "You have to keep them healthy. The hard part is keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It's not always easy."
He's won Grand Champion heifer and Grand Champion steer more than once. He had the Grand Champion steer at the Runnels County Junior Livestock Show last year. Winning is a family tradition. Dad has won the Simmental heifer show twice in Ft. Worth. Hoppe has also won Junior Showmanship at the Cisco Fall Classic.
Hoppe's day starts off the same way every morning, "I get up about 6:20. Dad usually has breakfast cooked. I take the puppy out, then I come back in and eat. After that, I go to school. When I get home, I do my homework then I go and clean the cattle pens. I work in the barn and feed the cattle every evening." He's specific about the time that he gets up. 6:20 a.m. Nothing is left to chance.
In addition to showing steer and heifers, Hoppe also takes part in the 4H Public Speaking competition. The subject of his most recent presentation was halter breaking cattle. While we're talking, he leads a heifer out of the barn. From the moment he takes that halter in his hand, that heifer knows who the boss is. That 900 lbs cow might outweigh that 110 lbs young man, but the determination and focus of the young man isn't anything that the steer wishes to contend with. The cow and I both know, It's just better if she goes along peacefully.
Hoppe also participates in the 4-H Skillathon, as well as Livestock judging and sales talk. He gives me an example of "Sales Talk", as he takes a piece of equipment in hand, "Let's say that is something that I want to sell. I tell you all about it. I tell you how good it is, how I know it's good, what it can do for you and everything else. I know everything about it and then I make the pitch." I was about ready to buy that item by the time he finished telling me about it.
It's not just raising an animal for the show that Hoppe enjoys, "I love the part where I make money. Really, though, I love it when my whole family makes money. That's the best part." Economical motivation isn't a bad thing, especially if you know what you're doing.
Overall, Hoppe and mom figure that he spends around 10-12 hours a week with his cattle, "We help him out if he needs it. Sometimes we point something out to him and he takes care of it. He's great about following instructions and following through."
When it comes to the various stock shows, Danna says that it's not hard to find her son, "Look for the football. If he's not with his animal, he's playing football with someone." Hoppe is quick to point out that he wants to start playing football in junior high, "If it's okay with mom, of course." Hoppe also plays baseball in addition to his 4-H activities.
Perhaps, the easiest way to find Hoppe is to look in the winner's circle when it comes time to crown the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion steer and heifer. That is most likely where you will find the industrious young man and his family.
The 4-H Life is a series of articles on the youth who participate in 4-H. They don't have to participate in raising livestock. Any participationin 4-H events from the food show to livestock judging, Skillathon, public speaking, etc., is accepted. If you would like to have your youth featured, or know of someone who might be interested in participating in the series of articles, email Bill Hancock; BHancock@Gannett.com.