A lesson in patriotism

I didn’t realize Ellisa Bowden was watching me as I walked away from Horse Whisperer Arena during the Sweet Grass County Fair auction.

Barely out of the stands, she walked right up, looked me in the eye and with the upmost sincerity said, “Thank you for buying my bookshelf.”

In her red western paisley print pearl snap shirt, she looked like a picture perfect 4-Her, beaming from ear to ear. 

I thanked her in return for making the shelf — in truth, I’d been looking for something like this for quite some time. 

“It’s right over here,” she said pointing to the right. “Want to see it?”

I did, of course. But mostly, her excitement was enough. I was so pleased to see the joy on her face.

Ellisa told me in an upbeat tempo how she and her dad selected and carved the wood, rough at first, and later sanded it into a polished design.

Before we parted, I told her how impressed I was with her hard work and asked if I could snap a photo.

With not a second’s hesitation, Ellisa grabbed her project and stood beaming once again for the camera. 

Then she gave me a hug.

The county fair is a newer thing for me. In Cheyenne, Frontier Days is the golden child, overshadowing its cousin, the Laramie County Fair, which takes place a week later. 

There, the fair gets coverage, but not its own daily special section.

City people don’t get it. Shouldn’t a fair have rides? Fried turkey legs? What’s the point of walking an animal around a ring? Are they really blow-drying a cow?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it at first either.

But now, after three years with the Sweet Grass County Fair, it hit home at home.

Sitting in the auction arena that evening, that ol’ patriotic pride welled up inside me again. ‘This,’ I thought, ‘is America.’

Or maybe moreover, this is what America should be.

Yes, in the real world we can’t expect all our lovely projects to bring in sale prices nearing the thousands. Heck, we make our living here at the Pioneer .75 cents at a time.

But the fair exhibits hard work, dedication, pride, professionalism and fun — exhibits, celebrates and rewards.

Every participant who enters the ring is dressed to the nines. Their animals, and often their faces, are sprinkled with glitter. They worked hard on these ventures — cattle, swine, lambs, woodworking projects and photographs alike. They step into the ring with pride to show hundreds of neighbors and strangers what they’ve done, surely feeling a ping of nervousness before the first bid comes in.

And then, like Ellisa, they take the time to offer a sincere thank you.

My father told me once that the most patriotic thing I could do would be to have and raise good American babies.

I scoffed at him — slightly hurt, feeling pressured and a little pissed. “Dad,” I said, “I am a good American baby. Isn’t that enough?”

Now, several years later, I realize he was right.

The future of our country depends on youngsters like Ellisa and her fellow 4-H and FFAers. 

It depends on people willing to step up and get their hands dirty. People who take pride in their roots and want to help others understand it too. People who treat one another with respect and are willing to help a neighbor. People who understand personal responsibility.

So, to Ellisa, her parents and all those involved in the Sweet Grass County Fair — thank you.

You are shining examples of American pride.

And, I’m sure, my dad thanks you too.

– Lindsey Erin Kroskob / Pioneer Editor

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