Jacque Fontenot, Blanchard, Tobie M. | 2/18/2006 4:42:56 AM
Hurricane Rita destroyed homes, schools and barns when it ripped through Cameron Parish last fall. It also bruised and battered the hopes of hundreds of 4-H’ers looking forward to showing livestock.
"Livestock means a lot to these kids," said Jake Fontenot, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Cameron Parish. "It’s a big part of the Cameron Parish 4-H Club."
Although the event was months away, Fontenot said he started getting calls the day after the storm from students and parents asking whether the parish livestock show would still be held in January.
When it appeared the show would have to be canceled because of the storm’s devastating effects, Cameron Parish 9th grader Larayne Picou said she also was devastated by that thought.
"When my dad told me we weren’t showing, that had a big affect on me," said Picou, a 4-H Club member who has shown cattle and pigs since she was 9 years old and has always looked forward to parish and state livestock shows.
In the long run, however, Picou didn’t have to face those fears. With help from the LSU AgCenter and her neighbors to the north in Calcasieu Parish, Picou and others from Cameron got to participate in a parish livestock show, as well as the district and state shows.
For purposes of the shows, the youngsters were granted hardship requests, and deadlines were extended. Calcasieu Parish shared space and judges with 4-H’ers from Cameron and combined their parish livestock shows.
Now the students from Cameron said they are thrilled to be participating in the LSU AgCenter’s State Livestock Show this week (Feb. 11-18) in Gonzales – although it has been a long road to get there.
Along the way, they have shared more than just the space to hold livestock shows. Many also have lost their homes and barns.
"Ninety percent of our kids from southern Cameron Parish don’t have anything left," Fontenot said.
Picou’s family has opened their home and barn to fellow 4-H’er and relative Bailey Richard and her family.
"We always said we wanted to live together, and now it has happened," Picou said.
Richard’s home in southern Cameron Parish was severely damaged by the hurricane. Both girls show Braford cattle.
"We share feed pens, help each other feed, wash and water." Richard said.
Her family is now living in a camper on Picou’s family’s property. Prior to that, after the storms, Richard was living with relatives in Lafayette.
"It was hard. I was used to being out in the country." Richard said. "We couldn’t go outside and ride four-wheelers, and I really missed my horse."
Fontenot estimates about 100 4-H’ers from Cameron Parish are participating in the LSU AgCenter’s Livestock Show. The parish usually had about 200 4-H’ers compete.
Nevertheless, those who did manage to attend this year’s show couldn’t hide their enthusiasm.
"I couldn’t even sleep the night before we left to come here because I was so excited." Richard said.
Richard’s older brother, Kolby, also shows cattle and was thankful to be reunited with many of his friends.
"It gives us a chance for all of our friends to get together, because we are so spread out," he said.
In just one day, life changed dramatically for these youngsters. They say showing livestock brings some semblance of normality to these 4-H’ers in their post-Rita world
"It’s the only thing normal we have left to do," Kolby Richard said.
Because of the hardships she endured Picou says she is a stronger person.
"It makes me want to enjoy life more, because life is too short," Picou said. "It makes me want to enjoy my animals more, because if we wouldn’t have taken our cattle, we would have lost them."
Contact: Jake Fontenot at (337) 775-5516 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Tobie Blanchard at (225) 578-5649 or email@example.com