When the State Fair comes around and I see all the young people displaying their animals, it always makes me smile. I enjoyed teaching at Estancia High for six of the best years of my career.

What was so special was being included in activities of 4-H. Head, Heart, Hand, and Health is their motto. This student organization was started by, no other than Oscar Herman Benson of Wright, Iowa. I left Iowa at 15 and unfortunately did not get to participate in 4-H because we moved so often. So, when I got a chance to teach in a country school that had real animals to take care of and life skills to learn, I was thrilled.

Back to the history of 4-H. Oscar Herman Benson at first had emblems with three- and four-leaf clover symbols. He broke it down into agriculture and domestic science classes, and 4-H was put under the guidance of the Secretary of Agriculture, who holds the responsibility and stewardship at the direct request of the U.S. Congress. That was maybe the last time they worked together.

The emblem of the four-leaf clover with the stem always pointing to the right is as official as the U.S. Presidential Seal, the Red Cross, Smokey Bear and the Olympic Rings.

How does Domestic Science help? People use products every day and never think of how difficult they are to make; let’s say making jelly. Now I know today there are many more important things than making jelly, but, what if we did not have Smuckers or Welch’s jelly? Here you go with a bumper crop of strawberries which do not last long. Think fast!

What about those cold Iowa winters when you walk uphill, both ways, go to school and back in 6 feet of snow? When you get home, you want a piece of toast with jelly. Where can you get it when you can’t get out of the house to go to the store? Well, your mom had 4-H classes and she put up jelly. Bingo, Four-H wins again.

OK, so maybe that is a little dramatic.

Did I mention I taught drama? Over the years I made friends with the Home Economics teacher, Linda Wells. That lady could make jelly. Her talent was not just limited to Estancia High, while I was there, she was also part of the State Fair Board. Now that was responsibility. She was a Blue Bell and worked with students to produce their own clothes. There was nothing too tough for Mrs. Wells—she was there for the students.

Estancia has an equally fine program called, FFA, which used to stand for Future Farmers of America. George Martin was the teacher for everything Agriculture along with Ken Taylor. It was run as tight as a “mosquito’s bladder stretched across a doorknob.” An Iowa expression, but I have no idea what it means. But the program was tight. Every year I bought hams, sausages and cases of fruit. The school chapter of FFA participates in Torrance County Fair, the State Fair, and El Paso livestock show. They compete locally and nationally, and both of their teachers were honored in 1989 as New Mexico’s best.

Most students lived on a ranch if they were members of FFA when I was in Estancia. They were responsible to raise, care for and then sell the animals at the fairs. To see an animal go for a good price was evidence of success. And at school, what about all the time and attention it takes to care for a new calf, a bleating little lamb, and for goodness sake, chickens? If you take on a chicken and you don’t feed it or water it, it will die. When I got to Estancia, I noticed they had barns on the campus. I poked my head in and saw there were farm animals like I grew up with. I went in and petted a little calf and named him Clyde. Come spring was Greenhand week where students dressed up and worked hard to show the community what had been done all year.

Since I taught English to the upper classes, I was be asked by special students if they could skip a little Shakespeare to go and work on their projects. They were preparing a wonderful dinner with great pomp and circumstance. Now, I love Shakespeare, but I am sure if he had been raised right, he would have allowed students to have a break, so I allowed it.

In return, my husband Bill and I were invited to dinner and festivities. The students did the cooking and serving—they also did the butchering. If you don’t eat meat, stop reading here. Clyde was delicious. I never did name another one; I can learn too.

Roaring Mouse, cooking veggies and fresh corn, out.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.