Apachito family works together to attain 4-H goals

........................................................................................................................................................................................

By the time the Apachito family finally returns to their home in Alamo from the National Livestock Show in Phoenix late on Dec. 31, they will have logged a little over two thousand miles on their truck, or 37 hours of driving time, hauling their three children and their lambs and goats.

The show season started locally with the Socorro County fair on Labor Day Weekend, only 26 miles and 30 minutes of road time one way.

This year, of the Apachito children, Rawlin’s two goats won top honors in Socorro, and were auctioned off for $1,500. Two of Jarren’s and Tarah’s lambs also qualified for the junior 4-H/FFA livestock sale. Only the top quality animals qualify to be sold at auction at the county fair, no more than 16 lambs maximum out of a total of 60 shown, according to the Socorro County Fair Handbook.

Then, on Sept. 2, it was time to head off to the Navajo Nation fair in Window Rock, Ariz. — 245 miles away , a bit over four hours on the road. There one each of Rawlin’s and Tarah’s lambs made first place and were sold at auction.

There wasn’t much time to rest before the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque, which started on Sept. 12 and involved a mere 106 miles on the road, only about two hours’ driving time one way. According to dad Ray Apachito, the competition is always pretty tough at the state fair. Out of 50 lambs entered in a class, only the best 15 are chosen to be judged for the championship ribbons and a chance to go to the sale. Rawlin’s lamb placed in the top 10, which could have meant another trip to the sale barn, but it didn’t place in the top two. The up side is that the family didn’t have to stay around in Albuquerque for the livestock sale on the 21st.

The family enjoyed a bit of a break, since the Eastern N.M. Fair in Portales ran from Oct. 1 through the 7th. Unlike the state fair in Albuquerque, the family had to stay the whole week, even though their lambs did not go to sale. A couple of the boys’ lambs placed in the top 10, which, according to Ray, is quite an accomplishment, given that they had to compete against 70 other first-rate lambs in each class.

October is the end of the traditional fair season, except for the national competition in Phoenix at the end of December. Since show lambs cannot exceed 160 pounds, Ray said his children sold the remaining lambs to friends and relatives, and he traveled to Silver City to buy four younger lambs to show at the Arizona event.

All of this effort is worth the time and expense, Ray said, because his children have set a goal that he and the whole Alamo Navajo community supports.

“My kids made this goal on their own,” he said. “No Native American has won a grand or reserve champion award for lambs or goats in New Mexico or at the Arizona Nationals.”

Ray said his children want to be the first to break through this barrier, so he is more than willing to go the extra distance to help them out.

Last year, Ray drove all the way to El Reno, Okla., just outside of Oklahoma City, to purchase top-quality club lambs for the children’s projects.

The Apachito children’s winnings finance much of their 4-H project costs, such as buying the livestock, feed and equipment, as well as travel expenses. The children are also responsible for caring for their animals.

“They get up at 5 a.m. every day to feed before school,” Ray said. “After school, they walk their lambs, talk to them and teach them showmanship.” Besides daily care, the children vaccinate and clip their lambs.

“Each kid has their own clippers, and they shear their own lambs,” he said.

The children are also responsible for keeping up with school work while they are on the road.

Ray credits Alamo Navajo High School FFA advisors Jason Lamb and Glenda Sours for helping his children.

“Jason Lamb has been around lambs his whole life, and has been a judge,” Ray said. “Richard Tafoya also has helped out a lot.”

Tafoya is the children’s 4-H club advisor.

In return, the Apachito family has devoted a lot of time helping other families get started showing lambs, often driving into Socorro to hold clinics on care and showmanship, said Deana Tafoya, Socorro County Extension Service 4-H specialist.

“It’s all about helping each other,” Ray said. “We help each other and other families. We spend a lot of time with the animals, but it’s for the kids.”

Ray credits his children’s involvement with FFA and 4-H for keeping them on the right track.

“It’s a really nice family environment,” he said. Working with the animals keeps his children busy with healthy, outdoor activities, especially important since Rawlin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 10 years old.

Ray is particularly pleased that his children have set their own educational and career goals.

“Rawlin wants to be with animals,” he said. “He wants to be a vet.”

Tarah is a competitive sports nut, and loves basketball. She plans to attend college.

Oldest son Jarren also wants to attend college and then join the Marine Corps. “He wants to be a Navajo cop,” Ray said.