One of the first 4-H Programs I was involved with while working for the Extension Service was the Pullet Chain Program. With this project, all 4-Hers in the county could apply to receive 50 free baby chicks, raise them, and bring eight back for a show and sale in the fall. The 4-H member could keep the remaining 42 pullets for egg production or to sell. The youth agreed to bring eight pullets back to the show and if not, they were to pay for the chickens. The Friday before Easter was always “baby bird” day with 250 little chicks in the Extension office. If you have never heard 250 chicks “chirp” all day long, then you don’t know what you’ve missed. By the time all the chicks had been picked up by the 4-H families, everyone in the office was happy for the quiet and ready to call it a day. For us, that may have been the end, but for the 4-Her it was only the beginning. Baby chicks had to be kept in a cage, fed, watered, and protected from harm. If any of these tasks were not done, the birds would suffer and perhaps even die. Later, during the summer, the Extension Agents visited the 4-H families to check on the Pullet’s progress and to vaccinate the chickens. Personally this was one of my favorite experiences, as I loved traveling through the county and seeing how and where people lived. It was during these visits that Mr. Fitts, my co-worker, predicted how individual pullets would do at the show and often he was correct. It was also at this time that Mr. Fitts would suggest to the family several ways to improve the feed or treatment of the birds in order for the 4-H member to be successful at the show. He was always willing to help a young person do their best. On show day, chickens would arrive in a variety of pens and in a variety of conditions. A poultry specialist from Clemson would be on hand to judge the birds and Charlie Walker served as auctioneer. Pullets were judged on uniformity of size, stages of maturity, egg production, being well feathered, healthy, alert, and clean. Of course, the blue ribbon pullets were always easy to auction as opposed to white ribbon birds that were undernourished, unproductive, and dull. It was easy to determine the 4-Her who took the project seriously and those who did not. The money from the sale of the birds went into a fund to purchase additional chicks to keep the project going.
For the past two weeks I have viewed and studied the two national political conventions. Witnessing all the people dashing around like chickens with their heads cut off and listening to all the squawking reminded me of the 4-H Pullet Project. And frankly, there were many similarities. First, please remember the following observations include both conventions and basically it’s just for fun.
The first comparison would include the fact that just like the baby chicks we all begin small and innocent. The person we become and the political party we connect with is usually a result of where we are raised, and what we were fed as in family values, principles, and goals. Our upbringing is vital in how we develop. When we go into the political world we are judged just like the pullets by our maturity, our productivity, and our awareness. The pullets and the people, who are equipped and alert, often do better than those who are just not ready to produce. As I thought about the importance of keeping the birds safe during the 4-H project, I related the $16 trillion national debt to a big fox in the chicken house that has the potential to destroy the entire flock. In addition, just like Mr. Fitts offered guidance to the youth, each convention had people in place to keep everyone inline and legal. In fact, our own Helen McFadden, party parliamentarian, was shown on national television numerous times counseling the chairman during a platform discussion. Furthermore, just like Mr. Fitts’ predictions about which pullet would win, there were countless pundits on both sides who claimed their candidate would prevail in November. Another resemblance might be the way everyone talked over others and picked on the challenger continuously. If you have ever watched chickens, they are all cackling at the same time and constantly pecking each other. It was the same way at both conventions. Those in the political arena always try to get the last and loudest word as they attempt to inflict pain on the opponent. Occasionally at both the pullet show and the convention there were participants who got their feathers ruffled and truly, it was not a pretty sight. As citizens, we should remember that we are Americans first and party members second. Even those who are passionate about their political association and aspirations should remember that impressionable youth, our enemies, and other countries are always watching.
The way Americans represent themselves while in the spotlight determines a lot about who we are and what we believe. Can we agree to be more polite with our politics or will Americans continue to behave like pullets?