Cass Lawson, 18, left, and her sister, Beckalyn, 11, both of the Saluda Kountry Kids 4-H Club, work on their family’s farm last week to prepare their animals for the 2014 Jefferson County 4-H Fair. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Cass Lawson, 18, left, and her sister, Beckalyn, 11, both of the Saluda Kountry Kids 4-H Club, work on their family’s farm last week to prepare their animals for the 2014 Jefferson County 4-H Fair. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Cass Lawson learned how to raise and care for a number of animals during her 4-H career, but the organization also helped her learn about herself.

While Lawson learned to compete in the fair shows, she also learned other life skills - like self-discipline and time management - that she plans to use well after the fair competitions end for the 10-year member.

The 2014 Southwestern graduate began showing sheep early in her 4-H career after watching her older sister, Hannah, participate in shows. The Lawson family lived on a farm in Jefferson County with enough room for larger animals, but sheep were smaller and easier for the youngsters to handle.

"I kind of followed in her footsteps," Cass, 18, said.

The Saluda Kountry Kids 4-H club member remembers attempting to show cattle one year, but that didn't work out very well.

"We were too small to handle them," she said.

Cass also showed horses for a few years. Still, the sheep project continued to be a part of her 4-H fair experience throughout the past 10 years.

From raising animals on the family farm to making final preparations for the fair, preparing the sheep for the county 4-H fair show is a year-round project for the Lawson family.

"It's a day-to-day thing," Cass said. "You have to get a routine."

During the earlier years, that daily routine wasn't so difficult. Cass would get up to feed the animals, walk them and make sure their needs were met.

As the years continued, tending to the animals became more difficult to fit into the schedule, she said. Between school activities and a job, Cass often had to make time to work with the animals.

That wasn't always easy.

While others might be spending the night at a friend's house or taking overnight trips, Cass had to consider the routines she already had for the sheep and lambs.

But, Cass has experienced things that others never had the chance to do. She's competed in the animal shows for the last nine years at the county fair, showing sheep and horses she worked with throughout the year.

She also spent fair weeks in an RV surrounded by friends, 4-H competitors and other people she only gets to talk to during the fair.

"It's kind of just a tradition," she said. "It's kind of like it's own community."

Another tradition of the fair is the annual 4-H auction.

"While everyone else is enjoying Friday at the fair, we're saying goodbye to our animals," she said.

Although the last day of the fair has always been a little sad, this one will be even more bittersweet. Cass knows she'll return to future county fairs to cheer on her younger sister, Beckalyn, as she competes in shows ... but it won't be the same.

She won't be the one in the ring competing.

"I'm never going to have those experiences again," she said.

Cass said she is proud of her 10-year 4-H member achievement as her time with the organization comes to an end. Although preparing for the fair isn't always easy and sometimes there are complications along the way, she encourages each 4-Her to keep going and to try their hardest during each show.

Eventually they can achieve 10-year member status too.

"There's no reason to stop," she said. "I think it's an accomplishment."