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Fur & Feed

For many years a Junior Livestock Auction has been held during the Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah. The community supports the auction buying all sorts of species of livestock that are raised by 4-H members, FFA students, and independent juniors. Preceding the auction, a committee of local people put on a luncheon for prospective buyers. This lunch is held where what we call the Grange Park. The park is home to several shade trees, some permanent barbeque pits, and set up with tables and chairs. The idea is to feed the prospective buyers before the auction so that they will bid “often and high”. For many years the community has responded well, spending somewhere around $500,000 for an array of swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, and recently chickens.

I served on the Board of Directors of the Redwood Empire Fair for several years. I have a great interest in the Junior Livestock Auction, always held on Saturday afternoon of the fair. The luncheon brings the prospective buyers face to face with the exhibitors. These young people are in their respective uniforms. The 4-H members are in all white with a green tie and cap. The FFA members are not only in white, but are wearing the official blue FFA jacket. Their duty at the luncheon is to serve the food and drink. 

The whole event reminds me when I was a 4-H and FFA member. I still know many of the prospective buyers, so I usually mingle among the crowd until it’s time for everyone to walk over to the judging arena, where the auction takes place.

One year while I was attending the luncheon, I visited with old friends so long, I was the last one to get a plate of food. I sat at a table by myself to eat my food. Soon I was joined by what I remember was a young 10-year-old all dressed in a 4-H uniform. He came over to my table and said that I looked lonely, and would I like some company while I ate? During the conversation he revealed that he was Otto Fraser, a member of the Boonville 4-H Club. He went on to tell me he exhibited rabbits, and later that afternoon he was going to auction off a pen of his rabbits. He had time to talk to me since the sale order showed that it would be later in the auction when his rabbits would be sold.

About this time a woman approached the table identifying herself as Saffron Fraser, mother of Otto, and concerned that he was bothering me. I assured her that I welcomed his company. I learned that his father worked at Handley Cellars in Navarro. I knew Milla Handley, owner of the winery, and had helped her establish her vineyards some many years ago. 

After lunch we all said goodbye. Otto sold his rabbits at the auction and he continued in 4-H with a rabbit project. I would periodically send Otto a check for rabbit feed, and always received a thank you note. Time went by and I lost track of Otto, but his name would often appear in the Advertiser. It always made a warm feeling inside. 

Then most recently an article and picture of Otto was published in the Advertiser. Otto had graduated from the US Coast Guard aircraft mechanic school. He looks like a fine young man and I would like to think that raising his rabbits contributed to his success in his chosen profession.

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