During this primary election season in Richland County, Montana there has been a lot of rumor, gossip, and barroom talk about why the new 4-H barn was built.
Some of the gossip is so farfetched and juvenile that I will not trouble anyone by giving examples here. Instead, let us take an adult look at the concrete facts.
The old 4-H barn at the Richland County Fair & Rodeo was built over 100 years ago. It was made of wood. The stalls and everything were built for the size of steers then. Animal science had progressed since then. Today, the average 4-H steer is roughly twice the weight of steers in the 1910s. By 2010, it was difficult to fit modern steers into the facility.
Add to that the inevitable wood rot. The barn was being maintained, and county employees from the road department were doing what they could. Still, however, in 2019 a beam fell and missed a 4-H girl by inches.
Had we gone on with the old barn, we were going to injure or kill someone. Consideration was given to repairing, renovating, remodeling, or refurbishing. There were no practical solutions. Before long, the facility would be uninsurable. No matter what, the old barn would have to be demolished.
The decision before the fair board and the county commissioners was not either (A) keep the old barn or (B) build a new one. The old one simply had to be demolished. Instead, the decision before the two boards was either (A) have a 4-H barn by building a new one or (B) do not have any 4-H barn.
Really? Richland County was not going to have a 4-H barn? We were not going to continue our agricultural roots? We were not going to invest in our youth the way those who went before us did? What do the gossips think the old barn cost if we adjust its price to today’s dollars? Our grandparents made a significant investment in our parents, us, and our children that for their time was every bit as big as the investment we made in the new 4-H barn.
What were we supposed to do? Go backwards and do less than our homesteading grandparents did? Take from our grandparents and not give to our children? What kind of people is that?
In the face of this concrete reality, take a second look at some of the rumors, gossip, and barroom talk you might have been hearing. Do we really want to be the kind of people who believe that? Is that kind of information the basis we want for county leadership?
The leadership we already have has not only maintained a 4-H facility to carry on from our grandparents. They have expanded the uses in the new facility. The new 4-H complex can host bull sales, rodeos, exhibitions, musical events, and so on that never were in the picture with the old barn. They have hired a new fairgrounds manager with an assignment to promote multiple uses of the facility throughout the year, not just during the fair. The leadership is leading where we need to go.