Wings of Independence

Dear Readers, the year 2017 is a milestone anniversary year!

One might suppose that this achievement has something to do with Dearly Beloved and Miss NiNi. Please know that every year in our marriage is considered a beautiful milestone in life!

However, today my baking chat focuses on a 115-year benchmark for what has become America’s largest youth development organization—4-H Clubs.

It’s quite fitting to chat a bit about the 4-H story, especially since this organization has been instrumental in developing the lives of millions of America’s youth, including Miss NiNi!

It was 1902 when Mr. A.B. Graham from Clarke County, Ohio, began what is considered the birth of 4-H.

The Inspiration

What inspired him to do this?

At that stage of America’s growth, there were no organized opportunities for youth to learn outside of home and school. The idea came to Mr. Graham to offer an education to rural boys outside of the school setting yet related to the environment in which the students lived. His desire was to have rural boys test out seed corn of different varieties. He traveled by horse and buggy to twelve different rural schools to promote his idea. Thirty-five young gents volunteered to tackle his plan. The Corn Growing Club—forbearer of 4-H–was formed.

Many Internet sources do give credit to a number of other fine men and women, as pioneers of the 4-H program. Similar programs were sprouting up in various states around the turn of the 20th Century.

It was felt that this type of club needed a symbol that represented the solid foundations for which it stood.

Five years after Mr. Graham’s idea took root, Mr. Oscar H. Benson, another pioneer of the 4-H program, created the clover pin with three leaves. Each leaf was inscribed with the letter “H”, representing Head, Heart, and Hands.

But, why use the symbol of a clover leaf, Dear Readers? According to Iowa’s own Jessie Field Shambaugh who was considered another 4-H trailblazer, “the 3-leaf clover was the most helpful thing in conserving soil.”

A few years later, the symbol 4-Hers and alumni recognize so well—the 4-leaf clover pin–was created.

What It Stands For

Mr. Benson said, “The Hs should stand for ‘Head, Heart, hands, and Hustle…head trained to be useful, helpful and skillful, and the hustle to render ready service to develop health and vitality.” Eventually, the word, “Hustle” was changed to “Health.”

When was Miss NiNi’s entrance into 4-H, Dear Readers? It was in October of 1960. Perhaps, some of you will reminisce about a similar join-4-H experience.

I stood alongside my friend Denice. The living room of neighbor Marlys was filled with community 4-H girls dressed in emerald green or white shirts. As Denice and I recited the words of installation of membership, two white candles flickered with glowing flames and seemed to be passage bearers of club admittance. Once the ceremony was over, the flames were extinguished, and we were members of the Menoken Busy Workers 4-H Club. A metal white pin with green 4-leaf clover was pinned to the collars of our shirts. Membership was sealed!

Then, the journey of “Learning By Doing” (the 4-H motto) began its 10-year trek for Yours Truly. It frankly would take volumes of baking chat columns to reveal opportunities for personal growth that had been presented to me through 4-H projects, exhibits, activities, and leadership experiences, Dear Readers.

Who would have guessed that this shy, hide-behind-Mom’s-skirts country girl could conquer fear of an audience by showing its members how to make a dozen muffins or create a loaf of banana bread through 4-H educational presentations?

Who could have surmised that through 4-H, I developed life-giving bonds of affection for livestock that would, in turn, trigger passion for mankind?

Who knew that homemaking skills taught to me by Mom due to requirements of food, clothing, and home improvement 4-H projects would serve as the catalyst to Miss NiNi’s world of dessert-baking entrepreneurship?

A Fond Look Back

As I review the chapters in my book of life, it’s easy to see that 4-H was the source of my road map whose journey meandered from adolescence into adulthood.

How often, Dear Readers, does a special song from my 4-H past come to mind! It speaks from the heart about the value of 4-H in the lives of its members. A senior member in our 4-H Club wrote it decades ago for a county 4-H talent contest in which we club members lifted our voices in song. The part that I remember went like this.

“We can serve baked hams, cakes, fancy sandwiches, cookies, cakes, fruit desserts, and strawberry pie. If you asked us where we learned to do so many things, we would tell you truthfully that 4-H had given us wings.” Carmen Owen, Menoken Busy Workers 4-H Club, ND.
Yes, that sums it up, Dear Readers! I take those lyrics to heart! 4-H has given me wings to fly to the unknown and back again. I hope you have had that same privilege!