Legacy. It’s one of those words that’s thought about more than talked about. Legacy is about an opportunity to leave an impact that lives on beyond your years. Legacy carries on your voice after death. I’ve seen it drive many people to do a better job for the future, whether on their farm, business or through a service organization.
Last month I saw my legacy come to life. My daughter bought her first calf. It has been a long anticipated event, made even sweeter by some recent changes in our life. She went to our neighboring friend’s barn, made her choice all on her own after watching the calves and carefully evaluating their maternal lineage (she’s still talking about the udders) and then negotiated the terms standing in the free stalls. As she counted out money from her savings account, she became the very proud owner of Ving (already named, or she would have been Clarinet). Ving is black month-old calf with spirit to match my spunky first-year 4-Her.
Those who recall purchasing their first 4-H animal know the lessons that animal projects teach a young person. Perseverance. Work ethic. Respect for animals. Risk management. Responsibility. Joy in victory and defeat – and the agony associated with both. Sense of accomplishment. How leading involves a lot more than movement in one direction. Leverage (spoken as a person who is usually smaller than the animals I’m handling). So many lessons are taught in caring for animals, teaching them to perform in a show ring and working through the years to improve genetics of your selected species. They are lessons that later shape your career, your perspective on life, and how you give back to others.
Ving has a big responsibility; she will become the starting point a little girl’s reference of what it means to be a part of the dairy business. You never forget your first animal. I recall Bambi, my extraordinarily stubborn Astronaut daughter, who is pictured here. I remember going to Brownson Farms to pick her out and making the deal with Keith Brown. I remember Bambi stomping on my feet and her hoof sliding down my shin during the open class show at the county fair when she was in heat and jumped me, even though she was way bigger than a 10 year-old little girl. I remember Bambi’s first calf, a bull I named Thumper. I remember learning to braid on her switch (the hair at the end of cow’s tails). I remember the pride I felt when I “made her pretty” after countless baths to remove her manure stains. But more than anything, I remember how Bambi and later cows, such as Goldilocks and Perfect, fanned the flames of my great love affair with dairy cattle. As anyone who loves cattle will tell you, once they’re in your heart, you never quite get them out.
It’s a privilege to watch a little girl wrap her arms around her first dairy calf and do everything she can to make friends with 150 pounds of orneriness. As Mother’s Day approaches, I am so thankful to see my daughter carry on this legacy. Not just because of my dairy love affair, but because I believe the best job a mom can do is to prepare her children for life.
There’s no better place to teach about life than in the barn. I don’t know if my daughter will be a part of the dairy business someday, but I will do everything I can to help her experience the many facets of agriculture and let her forge her own legacy. How are you contributing to your legacy and those who come after you?