Not some philosophical question about your existence. Just a question that I have asked students during the past 20 years of teaching ag ed in Oklahoma.
Why are you here?
Why are you in this class?
I want to learn to weld. Or, I want to go to the shop. Or, I want to build stuff. All of these are very common responses. Every ag teacher has heard these replies.
During the 90s, I learned how to help kids build cool stuff. I have a smoker that the kids built my first year in Waynoka. The only money spent on this smoker was a jack, some 6011 rod and gas for the torch. It ain’t purdy but it is hell-built for stout and is a cooking SOB. I still have this smoker. It sits on the NW corner of my shop. If you have been here, you have seen it. Then, we graduated to building trailers and such.
In 2001, we decided to build a dune buggy. I mean, Waynoka, home of the Little Sahara. In cooperation with the local dune buggy shop, from scratch, we built a dune buggy. Reworked a Volkswagen front end to serve our purposes. Bent 1 1/2″ round tubing and welded the frame together. Had the frame powder coated–FFA national blue with gold flake in it. Lots of chrome. Bright yellow safety harnesses to go with the blue and gold color combined with that chrome. Oh! The kids built the engine from the block up. And those VW blocks are in two pieces. WTH? Teacher learning assimilated with the students learning. Uh, yeah, I knew that it went together like this!?!?!? We used a VW bus transmission. The bus trannys are bigger. A girl plumbed the master cylinder and ran the brake lines. (Yeah, we later used that part in a state winning speech). This thing was BAD ASS! I ain’t bragging. It was cool. Way cool!
We finished it the first of May. The new principal told me that I had to give semester tests. What? We built an effing dune buggy. Tests? RUSM? I told him that the seniors and I were taking this thing out to the Little Sahara to run it on the dunes. That would be our test. He winced, ducked his head a bit and then said, “Alright, but I’m coming with you all.” Come on dude! We are still friends. This buggy won the Woods County Ag Mechanics contest at the county fair which had some good prizes. There was a car show going on in Alva. Some locals paid our entry for the car show. It won crowd favorite and most unique entry. The kids were stoked.
Then we took it to the State Fair of Oklahoma. Kids, we are going to have the grand champion ag mechanics project at the fair. Wait? What? We didn’t win.
That dune buggy won it’s division. But it got beat by a semi trailer from Elgin and a refurbished/restored tractor from McCloud. I don’t begrudge the semi trailer but I still think we should have beat the tractor. Oh well. At that time, OKC fair and Tulsa over-lapped. So we couldn’t go to both.
We sold 100 chances for $100 apiece on that dune buggy. The local bank financed this project. We brought in $10,000. We had about $6,000 invested. Profitable venture. The community pride, the kids pride, school pride and let’s not shit ourselves, my pride–all were invaluable.
I’ve had kids show the grand steer at OYE, the grand lamb at OYE, the grand goat at OYE, the grand chickens at Tulsa and breed champion pigs at OYE. Not to mention my own offspring’s success. Throw in some CDE events and speaking winners. It’s all just coincidence. No matter, that first dune buggy is my all-time favorite project. About 20 kids worked on that thing. Diverse kids. It fit the community. We used guidance from community members. Learned about finance from the local bank. Kind of forced the school to accommodate our schedule. Worked after hours. Had problems the first night that we fired the engine. Had to trouble shoot. It made money. (although I wish that I had paid for it and still owned it) It actually helped raise more money for the local stock show and ag boosters.
I even got the opportunity to co-author an article with an OSU ag ed professor in a professional journal about this project. Over the years, I have kept a few pictures. I still have the picture of the group that built that thing with the people that guided my dumb ass and the buggy. I guess I ought to digitize it and post it some time.
We built two more of those things. In 2005, my last spring at Waynoka, we finished the last one. A girl welded the entire frame. She didn’t trust the boys to weld as good as she could. That girl was a heckuva stick showing Hereford cattle but she could also run a MIG. That chick is now our accountant. It was a candy apple red with silver fleck powder coat. Even more chrome. Louder engine. A student and I drove that thing through the streets of Waynoka. Cops were called. They turned their lights on and escorted us back to the school. Small town living. I then drove it right by the grade school and middle school class rooms. I shifted down and racked that thing out. Teachers were pissed. The principal, superintendent and most importantly, the school secretary were proud. I was real proud. Poe Cat took over as the Waynoka ag teacher and they won some plaques with that thing.
I write this for my own memory. And because until now, Oklahoma has not always had a proper place to exhibit these kind of projects. Even though ag mech projects appeal to more students than livestock showing. We have shown at the state fairs but it was for bragging rights. No real prizes. A plaque and $25 for grand overall. Duke had the grand in 2016 and 2018 at the State Fair of OK. Reserve grand at Tulsa in 2018. We liked the shows. But it could be better.
Phoenix added an ag mech show a couple of years ago. I highly recommend it. We added an ag mech show to Woodward District this year. It went over real, real good! Good enough that others took notice.
Like other things, Texas does the FFA ag mechanics project shows to the highest level in the nation. Ft. Worth, San Antonio, San Angelo, Houston and others shows all have large ag mech shows. Huge sponsors and prizes. Some chapters are so good at winning welders, plasma cutters and torches, they have a waiting list of people to buy the prizes. Kids have outfitted their own shops with tools won at these events. It is awesome.
Getting the Ag Mech show added to Woodward District took some doing, but it went over well. Now, guess what? YES!!!! There will be an Ag Mechanics project show at OYE this year. The show staff is on board. Really good group of directors. Jerry Renshaw is the head of the Ag Mech show. Yeah, he was the ag teacher from Elgin that had the semi trailer that beat the dune buggy, several years ago. There are sponsors in line. It will take time to grow it. But….but…but… hell yeah! We have an ag mech show at OYE in 2020! Yes!
This is one post that I don’t want to hit publish. I haven’t been on the dunes in a decade but I still wonder. Why do I not own that first buggy? I was piss-broke and a dumb ass is why.
Funky cold medina.