The image of a modern farmer often includes a tractor and it’s no surprise that most farm work these days is mechanized, but there was a time when the heavy lifting on a farm was done by teams of working steer. Today, there is a group of hard working 4-H members working to keep history and tradition alive, raising and training teams of steers to perform the work done on the farm and in the woods much as it was done 200 years ago. These 4-H youth are guided by several dedicated volunteers who take time to teach and mentor youth to work with these animals and learn the skills needed to succeed. Frank Riley was one of those leaders who gave his time and energy to work with youth in 4-H. To many 4-H youth, he was much more than just a 4-H leader.
It takes years of dedication and effort to take a pair of calves and train them to work as an efficient team. Steers need to be taught to pull together, gee and haw (turn right and left), back up and even move over obstacles. Young teamsters often spend several hours each week working with a team to get them to be able to perform. And then there are the daily chores, maintaining the equipment and travel to and from fairs and exhibitions. None of this would be possible without the dedication of parents and 4-H volunteers. 4-H working steer volunteers work closely with members to teach them how to work with and care for their animals. They often help them build the yokes that harness the teams and while the youth are preparing their animals for showing at the fairs, the volunteers are behind the scenes making sure the youth are paying attention to the details.
Frank Riley was a 4-H volunteer leader of the Yankee Teamsters 4-H club. He mentored many youth, teaching them about the working steer project and the ins and outs of training young calves to work as a team. But Frank did more than helping youth train working steers, he helped mentor and raise young men and women, leading by example and lending a hand when needed or providing support for a young teamster who was struggling. Nowhere was this more apparent that at the Sandwich Fair this past Columbus Day Weekend, when several families gathered so that current and former 4-H members could show off their working steer chops in the various skills shows at the fair. Teamsters and their animals went through their paces in log skidding, cart obstacle courses and best trained steer competitions. The skills of the young teamsters was only outmatched by the work and comradery of all that were present. One could even say this group of 4-H teamsters, their families and 4-H volunteers was one big teamster family. They work hard together and they play hard and laugh together. It was said over the weekend that this work hard ethic was typical of Frank.
Franks memory was honored at the end of the weekend with the presentation of the Frank Riley Youth Mentor Award presented by his family and the Carroll County chapter of the New Hampshire Farm Bureau. The award was presented at the end of the Sandwich Fair 4-H Working Steer show to a youth who represented Frank’s dedication to helping others by demonstrating leadership, and supporting younger 4-H members in the Working Steer Program. This year’s inaugural Frank Riley Youth Mentor award was given to Alex Marcoux for his dedication to the 4-H working steer program and his willingness to help other youth during the Sandwich Fair.