LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I usually wait until after the Kentucky State Fair to make this report, but this year there is some news that simply needs not to be postponed that long.
If you’ve been a POINTS EAST reader for the last decade or so, you already know that Loretta and I run a photography day camp for 4-H kids, under the auspices of the Garrard County Extension Service, every year in June. You also know we are so tired by the time the whole thing is over that we swear we won’t be doing it again because we’re getting too old to keep up with a bunch of 10 to 14 year old kids who are pumped up on soda pop and sugary stuff.
But when the weather is cold and dreary in January, we start talking about how much fun we had in photo camp last year and bumping ideas off each other as to how we could make it better this year and it takes very little convincing that maybe we ought to do it one more time.
By the first of May, we are in full-steam-ahead, day-camp mode, all the while promising each other that this will, indeed, be the last year we do it because just can’t take it anymore.
And then we start talking about the kids who were there last year and how well they did at the State Fair after doing so well at the County Fair. These kids don’t know it but we talk, behind their backs, about how wonderful they are, collectively and individually, and how talented they are and just how lucky we are to spend a scant few days in their lives. I can only hope that, one day down the road, they’ll feel good to have encountered Lo and me when they pull a camera — or a cane — out but that’s beside the point.
4-H is pretty awesome in Garrard County and it probably is in yours. Here in central Kentucky where we raise cattle, horses, sheep, goats, hogs and the hay and corn it takes to feed them. We used to raise tobacco up until about four years ago, but that’s a different topic and it’s subject to a different column down the road.
So, anyway, we spent a bunch of time with kids and cameras during the second week of June in the classroom and out there taking pictures on the Patterson Farm where Dorothy Murphy and her mom have cherries ripening and peaches blushing and flowers in full bloom exactly when we do photo camp.
In fact, the week before we started I told Loretta she’d better call Mrs. Patterson to see if the cherries were going to be ripe because we might have to put the day camp off for a week or two if they weren’t.
Mrs. Patterson and Dorothy also have sheep, goats, cattle, chickens, a donkey and a spotted horse named Sugar who relishes the attention she gets during photo camp as much as the kids love petting on her. You may believe that Secretariat was the most photographed horse ever but Sugar would suggest you might need to do some actual counting.
Let’s just say Sugar’s mug, mane and tail have been prominently featured in one aspect or another by 4-H kids at both the Garrard County Fair and the Kentucky State for the last dozen years or so because she is not camera shy.
So Loretta calls me up on opening night from the fair grounds and says, “Guess who won Grand Champion in photography in the open class?” Open class is for photo hobbyists, serious amateurs and professional photographers and you’d better be pretty good with a camera before you enter a photo. Lo and I both had entries this year, as did some people who take pictures for a living.
But I didn’t miss a heartbeat before saying to her, “If Cassidy’s shot of Sugar didn’t win, you better be firing the judges.” I’d seen the picture and watched when Cassidy took it. Perfect sunset light on Sugar’s face and ears and eyebrows with her tongue stuck out as if to say, enough already!
Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Watkins has been in our day camp three years running and she could be teaching it. This year, we talked three or four of our 4-H day campers into entering the big league and unassuming, Miss Modesty, Cassidy Watkins, won the whole she-bang! YESSSSSSS!!!!
I absolutely could not possibly be prouder nor anymore elated. If I could have a room full of motivated, eager-to-learn kids like Cassidy Watkins I’d be back teaching in a heartbeat. It is so way, way beyond wonderful when your student out-performs the teacher.