This is one of my most favoritist things I’ve ever written. Just because it was so agonizing for my family to make the decision to seek help outside our industry and the repercussions that we dealt with because of that decision. However, this particular column has fostered many conversations in my industry, and I think that is an excellent thing. As I am discovering sometimes you have to stir the pot to affect change, and I’m ok with being that person sometimes.
Tag Archives: set an example
About two years ago, I had a Boss that sent me to our local fair’s junior livestock auction to buy a hog. Not just any hog, a special hog. The young lady, Lilly, whose hog my Boss wanted to purchase, had done a superb job at raising this hog, writing buyers letters, and even gave a presentation to my Boss about pigs (of course I provided my Boss with supplemental hog questions to throw at her, but she was not thrown, she knew her stuff).
Being trusted to buy this important hog for the office was a huge deal to me! I was determined to do the best job I could! Nothing was going to prevent me from my responsibility. Nothing.
The night before I had gone to one of Daniel’s shows at a local venue, I was excited about going to the auction the next day and told a couple of my NEW friends about it. I had met these friends through Daniel, and since he was close friends (and band mates) with their husbands I was eager to have them like me and get to know me. I thought inviting them to see part of my world would be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
The next morning my two girlfriends met me at Daniel’s house and us girls carpooled to the fair, it was going to be a great day filled with free food (buyers get snacks!), cotton candy and farm babies! We arrived early, staked our claim to good seats in the auctioneer’s eye-line. I had practiced my steely auctioneer gaze and head nod. We had our buy’s guide; we knew our lot number, and I had coached the girls about giving dirty looks to people bidding against us (come on, 3 pretty girls giving dirty looks? Scary!), we were ready.
We watched the auction and chatted, as our lot number came closer and closer. I spent years working and showing at that fair, so it felt like being back in the saddle again. It was like a reunion of sorts – former 4-H and FFA leaders, members and buyers were everywhere, I had spent the majority of my youth with these people. It was glorious. Until.
Our lot number came up. I was expecting a petite 11 year old girl with a pig, in the ring was a large, male, teenager, with a goat. Not the right 4-H member, not the right species, but the Auctioneer said it was our lot number. I was shocked. One of my friends asked what happened. I didn’t know! I was confused and scared. I was convinced I was going to be fired for failing to do the ONE thing my Boss told me to do. I wanted to cry and puke at the same time.
We sat in the bleachers for a few more minutes as I frantically texted my Boss that SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED. My Boss gave me the phone number for Lilly’s Dad, so I was able to call him and meet up with him to decide what we were going to do.
By this time we had realized what happened. The ring hands got ahead of the auctioneer and had pushed poor Lilly through the ring before her time – basically they skipped her. It wasn’t her fault at all, she was where she needed to be, at the right time. Being the polite 4-H member that she is, she just did what the adults told her to do.
I went to the livestock office and calmly explained what had happened (reminder, I had shown at that fair for a good 9 years and worked at that fair for 5, I was no stranger there). The livestock office manager (who trained me) tried to blame Lilly. I assured her that it was not Lilly’s fault, and again tried to calmly explain what had just happened in the sale ring not 10 minutes before. I even had a picture of Lilly in the sale ring, proving that, indeed, Lilly was where she needed to be. Again, Lilly was blamed. I was told that Lilly would have to wait all day and re-sell at the end of the auction (when there are no buyers left and the prices suck). Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen. It wasn’t her fault. What kind of example are we setting if the adults won’t even accept responsibility for their errors?
Let’s be frank for a moment. We all know that life is not fair. We all know that whether it is 4-H, high school football, after-school soccer, or room-mothers, there are favorites. There are last names that ‘mean’ more than others. There are people willing to do shady things to make sure their kid wins, or is “the best”. This is a fact of life, and it is no different in the land of agriculture. I have always hated this, I was never that kid with the last name, and my Parents weren’t shady, I hated the unnecessary injustice that tainted positive things for kids. As an adult I do my best not to be a part of this cycle and try and “fix it” if I can.
When Lilly was blamed and punished for something that wasn’t her fault, after I had evidence that proved she had done nothing wrong, and had vouched for her, I absolutely lost my shit (it needs to be noted that Lilly was calm and polite during this whole thing, I think that made it worse for me, she is just so sweet!). Sometimes adults forget that 4-H is about the kids, not about our power trip.
My two girlfriends had never seen a Megan-meltdown before. They had only seen happy, bouncy, giggly Megan (and sometimes the sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan). I scared them. With huge eyes, they politely as possible basically said, ‘omg you are nuts and we are scared, we’ll be at the farm babies exhibit’. By this time I was in phase III, bring it on, I will win, white hot fury. I was so mad I had stopped cussing. That is serious.
I had spoken to every buyer, 4-H leader, auctioneer, runner, member that would listen to my story. I had Lilly’s Parents and Grandma trying to reason with the livestock manager. I left a voicemail with the auctioneer that had skipped Lilly’s hog (he is like a brother to me). Finally I called the fair manager (we were pretty close friends in college and I had worked for him at other fairs), and told him to get over to the livestock office now, he tried to explain that he was busy running the fair, but I wasn’t having that. I was one step away from launching an all out personal war complete with signage and revolting FFA members. I have never had to work so hard to buy a 4-H animal in my life!
Before I made it Office Depot for poster board, I saw the man I knew could fix everything. My former teacher, boss and mentor, Mr. Doug Flesher.
Mr. Flesher is that person that has been involved with 4-H longer than anyone can remember. He’s lead generations of 4-H kids, watched generations of us grow up and go into production agriculture, he’s taught more of us to drive heavy equipment than I can count. In short, he is the most amazing, supportive, positive force in our local ag community and I can only hope to make him proud. I knew if Mr. Flesher got involved he would fix ‘this situation’.
Once Mr. Flesher heard what had happened, he sent me to the corner to calm down, while he spoke with the Powers That Be. The Powers That Be, at that point, realized they had a problem. They said someone else had already bought the hog (I knew that was bullsh*t because we watched the auction, no one even BID on her hog) and I was just told it was Lilly’s fault (PROTIP: get your story straight before you start explaining to me). When the auction runner spoke to the supposed buyer he said no, he bought a goat, not a pig. It was all I could do to not say, “I F’ING TOLD YOU SO”, but I did have a very sassy look on my face.
Mr. Flesher and I walked over to the bankers table that financed the sale and arranged it so I could buy the hog. Lilly got a great price, a wrong was righted but I was convinced that A) my friends weren’t my friends anymore because they saw the angry Megan and B) I was going to get fired because I threw such a public hissy fit and my Boss was going to hear about it.
I tentatively searched for my friends in the Farm Baby barn, I was embarrassed they had to witness what they witnessed. But at that point they didn’t care, they found puppies! One friend decided she was going to take one home and gave her husband the best choice ever – a puppy, a baby or a goat. She got the puppy.
After all the excitement I had to go home and have a nap. Actually, let’s be honest. I was convinced my Boss was going to call me into his office on Monday morning and fire my butt, so I was sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan for the rest of the weekend.
Monday rolled around and I sheepishly slunk into the office and quietly put Lilly’s thank you card and picture on his desk. Before I could quietly slink out again my Boss caught me. In tears, I had to explain what happened again. Then, to my surprise he said ‘well, my buddy said I did a good job hiring you’ – I wasn’t fired! My flair for the dramatic had actually been beneficial! FINALLY!
Two years later I am still employed at the same office, the two friends I was sure were going to break up with me? Oh you mean adult 4-H member Kristen, and next year’s adult 4-H member Lesley? Yeah, we are still friends.
The actual 4-H member Lilly? Yeah, she is raising a steer this year and I get to help her! The puppy? Well Scout is getting ready to be a big sister to Megan Jr. So you see, despite my anxiety, things worked out! Yeah I was deeply sadden by some of the adult’s behavior in the situation, but I fixed it, and until these adults move on, I will support 4-H in other ways, like being a guest leader or support person.