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Irons in the fire: Read the creed

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 01 April 2021

I was right in the middle of a fairly precarious situation when I felt my phone buzzing in my shirt pocket.

It startled me because the cell service is terrible up in the east field where the main cow herd is, and old number 507 was shaking her head, blowing snot and slobbering down my neck as I valiantly held my ground and tried to tag her new calf, presently held in a firm, old-school Powder River headlock between my knees.

Due to the delicate nature of my vulnerable state at the time, I chose not to retrieve the phone to see who was trying to track me down. Besides, a second buzz of the device in my pocket told me whoever was calling was persistent enough to leave a message. It must be serious. An hour or so later, with the feeding done and my life no longer in peril, I stole a peek at the phone to see who the caller was.

To my chagrin (it wasn’t quite to the chagrin stage, but I don’t know a word for “a-little-less-than-chagrin”), I saw the caller was Mr. Sharp, the local ag instructor and FFA advisor. No doubt he figured I was intentionally ignoring him. I owed him a favor or three, and he was probably wanting to cash in his chips. As it turned out, I was mostly correct in my pessimistic assumption. The request he had of me, though, was one I was happy to entertain. He needed someone to help judge the FFA creed speaking contest at the district contests, being held a few days hence in far-off American Falls. (Well, I don’t suppose an hour-and-a-half is really “far-off,” but it fits my rhetoric better than “nearby.”)

Once I was able to recover from a momentary flashback bout of PTSD, as I was reminded of my own poor showing in the creed speaking contest from a few decades earlier, I gladly sent a text to Mr. Sharp, informing him I would indeed be able to fulfill his request.

The FFA creed speaking contest is fairly simple. The participant stands in front of a panel of judges and recites the FFA creed and then answers a couple of questions relevant to the creed and American agriculture. Of course, the contest favors those with astute memorization skills, a certain stage presence and a touch of animation. Back in my high school days, I barely had my middle name memorized, and my deficiencies in the performing arts are many and glaring. That would partially explain why my own memories of the contest are less than fond.

Even though I had to finish up the feeding well after dark on the day of the contest, I was well paid for my oral evaluation services of the day. For starters, in spite of my own anxieties regarding the state of our modern world and nation, I came away with a sense of reassurance that the crop of up-and-coming agriculturists (creed speakers take note: there is only one L in that word) in the hopper is better prepared and much more capable to take on and feed the world than I had earlier imagined.

Beyond that realization, I was reminded of how inspiring that little piece of prose, penned by E.M. Tiffany in 1928 but just as relevant today as it was then, truly is. At the risk of overstatement, I dare say, outside of some scriptural passages and the Gettysburg Address, few words strike my heart with more gentle power than the FFA creed does. It’s a blessed anthem of comfort and encouragement to not only those who work the land and toil to feed the masses, but to those who honestly support and revere those efforts.

At the end of that day, when I hit my knees, I thanked the Creator for those teachers, FFA advisors, 4-H leaders, college professors, agriculture extension folks and parents who remain on the front lines, battling an ever-fiercer foe in their efforts to educate a small but noble force, hoping to secure a stable future for an increasingly apathetic and ungrateful world.

Anything worth doing requires some effort, so I’m not going to just give you all the answers. If you’ve read this far into this particular meandering rambling of mine, your assignment is to now go look it up for yourself. Read the creed. I’m guessing you’ll like it.  end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter or email Paul Marchant.

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