By Carl & Gayle Gardner & Marsha King
In rural East Texas, children’s participation in 4H and agricultural projects are strongly encouraged. Rusk County is no exception as it sits almost in the middle of cattle country. To further this interest, a Rusk County Youth Project Show is held each year in Henderson at the end of March. The youth from 3rd through 12th grade are allowed to participate as long as they meet the criteria for their exhibit. The exhibits consist of: shop, craft and food projects, and, of course, the livestock projects. A set number of the top winners in each category are allowed to participate in the auction on Friday and Saturday night to sell their winning projects to the highest bidder. Each participant hopes to make a large profit to use for college. Area individuals and businesses come together to help promote the efforts of these children by bidding on these projects through the auction.
My children would have liked to show their emus, but remember this is cattle country and emus are not allowed at the Project show. For the first year, they decided to show goats but when it came time to sell them my oldest daughter, Laura, decided she did not like having to sell an animal she had come to love only to find out it was going to become barbecue for someone. So the next year she decided to try something that would not be an animal. She decided she could do a craft. She did a little research and found out that the judges usually picked winners that showed unusual and unique projects. In the crafts division, which included paintings, woodcarvings, photography, foods, sewing, small sized tabletop welded objects, etc. only 3 could make sale so the competition would be intense and very difficult.
I was already doing emu egg carving and I suggested that Laura try that as her project. She was somewhat opposed to the idea at first because she had never tried to carve emu eggs and she didn’t think the judges would like it. But I kept encouraging her to try. I found what I thought was my easiest pattern for her to carve, which was a Southwest pattern of a coyote howling at the moon. We began by drawing it out on the egg. She practiced on a few eggs until she got the feel of the tool and then started carving. She did a very good job carving the egg. We made a base for it out of green limestone. The day of the judging was nerve racking waiting for the judges to make their decisions from the hundreds of submissions, but finally, the door opened and we were allowed in the room to see the results. We looked at the table where we had left the egg but it was no longer there. We finally found it on the winner’s table sitting next to a banner, blue ribbon and a trophy. We were ecstatic!!!! Her project had won Reserve Grand Champion! A rocking chair that was entirely made of horseshoes welded together was the Grand Champion. That night at the auction Laura was nervous. She was to parade around the arena displaying her egg to the audience attempting to entice prospective bidders. The auctioneer read the description we had written about the egg and then the bidding began.
The bidding commenced as she began walking. As she passed we could hear people around us comment about the egg. She kept walking and smiling and the bids went higher. The bidding continued $350…$400… $425, reaching the Grand Champion bid and kept going until it became clear two men were in a bidding war. One gentleman was a very good friend of the family and the other a local businessman. Finally, the bid was just too high for our family friend and he dropped out. The businessman’s bid had stopped at $550. I was astonished!
Laura came out of the ring and came over to me. She had no idea how much she had just gotten, as she was too nervous to listen. Upon hearing the amount the egg sold for she was ecstatic. The high bidder added the southwest-carved emu egg to his collection of southwest objects decorating his ranch. Laura admitted, for once, her mother was right and the money went into the college fund.
Next year came and again, we had to think of something unusual for the project show. Laura couldn’t do another carved egg so I surfed the Internet to see if an idea would pop out at me. I found a web site showing beaded kaleidoscope eggs. They were so pretty I knew it would catch the judge’s eye. I gave her the idea and again she lacked enthusiasm. We ordered the materials to make the kaleidoscope emu egg covered with iridescent blue luster with Austrian crystals. I must admit it took her quite a while to finish this project as she worked on it for about 2 months.
Our 4H leader had come over to take pictures of everyone’s exhibits that year and was astonished to learn that an egg was under all those beads. He thought it was just magnificent. His wife helped to take entries on the day of the judging and waited with breathless anticipation as I carefully removed and unwrapped the egg from the box we had brought it in. She called everyone over to see Laura’s egg and tell him or her proudly that it was from her 4H group.
We left and waited again to see the results. Very rarely does anyone ever win twice in the crafts division, as it is so competitive. We came back that afternoon and looked all over for the egg and again it was not where we had left it. But it was not on the winner’s table either. Finally, I asked someone about it and they said they had put it in the cabinet, as they were afraid it would get broken. One of the judges had almost dropped it. Laura’s project had won Grand Champion this time!!!!! Again we couldn’t believe it!
At the auction that night Laura again walked around displaying the egg offering individuals an opportunity to look through the kaleidoscope. The oohs and ahhs were all over as she passed by the bidders. The auctioneer read the description and the bidding began. Finally, it was finished and this time our family friend succeeded in outlasting all the bidders. He said he wanted to make sure he got it this time. Again, the winning bid was $550. Laura was very pleased that he won the bid. He has placed the egg on the mantle in his living room.
This year Laura being a high school sophomore was so busy with school did not wish to participate in 4H, however, her younger sister, Rachel, who is ten, wanted to enter a project. Rachel already had in mind that she wanted to make an emu egg clock, something both “useful and pretty”. I did not think that she would even place, as I couldn’t imagine the judges choosing an egg project three years in a row. I tried to talk Rachel into doing something different, but she was determined that was what she wanted to do. I tried to explain to her that it was her first year and not to expect too much. She worked very hard to get her egg ready. The hardest part was cutting the hole for the clock. I had her mark it off and I helped her cut it with my dremel tool. She inserted the clock, glued all the gold filigree pieces on and affixed the egg to the stand.
We again took it to the Rusk County Youth Project Show and waited for the judge’s decision. That afternoon we walked into the room and I was right she didn’t win top prize, but ……to my great surprise--- she got Reserve Grand Champion!
I was astounded! She screamed and jumped up and down. We were quite a sight of excitement.
That evening her sister gave her some pointers on what to do in the arena and offered to help by carrying her trophy and banner. The Grand Champion went first which was a tabletop size welded barbecue pit. He did quite well and the highest bid was $400. Rachel was next and started around the arena, smiling and holding her clock egg for all to see. The bidding began and went very well. When it was finished she had gotten $550 just like her sister. Our family friend had again the winning bid. He said if he had Laura’s egg he would have to have Rachel’s too.
It was too much to believe our daughters had made sale three years in a row on some kind of an emu egg. Rachel wants to do it again this next year and already has in mind what she wants to do. Yep, you got it; it is something with an emu egg! What do you call four years in a row -- fourpeat? Well, we’ll see.