Kids do the darndest things

Impressive skills of a 13 year old took me by surprise.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:11 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Describing someone as well rounded is a vague description at best. But if anyone is looking for a poster child of well-roundedness, I found her. Her name is Ali Kitchen. At 13, this Columbia girl is skilled in almost as many areas as my grandmother (who, in my eyes, can do anything.)

Ali has been in the Rockbridge 4-H Club for about six years and just in this year's Boone County Fair, is participating in horses, lambs, pigs, rabbits, cake decorating, sewing, hams, wood-working, photography and "what's the other one?" she said.

Oh yeah, and archery. It was with her black lamb, Emmy, that I found her. The lamb was propped up on a knee high table with its head fixed on a metal rest and anchored there with a chain behind her ears. Emmy looked how we feel when we have our eyes checked. Emmy is noisy. She was yelling, "Baaaaaa," literally. She sounded as if she were actually saying the word, "ba." And the goats across the way were whining back, "Maaaaaa!" But Ali paid no attention to the protesting of her lamb. She brushed Emmy as casually and naturally as one would wash a car. But she occasionally stopped to rub the lamb's nose, although I suppose some do this to their cars, too.

Ali said she had two lambs in the market competition this year. But she said only one can be sold at the auction Friday. The judges will look at the length of the lamb, the width and the muscle. To keep Emmy in champion shape, Ali walks her two miles each day.

When I asked Ali if she was hoping for a blue ribbon, she smiled widely enough to show me her festively colored braces and said, "I'm hoping for bright purple." Boy, did I feel like a dumb city girl. Of course she wanted bright purple, that was the grand champion ribbon. In these types of competitions, a blue ribbon was like third place.

What Ali didn't tell me is that she already had at least three bright purple ribbons. I found her name next to a grand champion ribbon all over the youth arts exhibit at the fair. The cake she decorated was an ear of corn. You could see each little nibblet made of icing. I think I said out loud, "How did she do that?" I browsed around and found her name next to another bright purple ribbon for a book she put together. It was called, "Imprinting a foal."

Although my sister rides horses, I had no idea what this meant. I thumbed through the book and found photos of Ali and a very young horse. Ali was on the ground with the foal practically in her lap. She had her hands on different parts of the foal in each photo with a step-by-step description under each photo.

I couldn't wait to see what else she had. I began hunting around for her name. Then I found the dress she made. I couldn't decide if the dress was more impressive than the cake or if the cake was more impressive than her taking care of several animals. But the dress was beautiful. It was gold with gold and green trim and a gold ribbon tie up in the back. It was the style Princess Gwenevere would have worn. For this, she got the reserve champion ribbon, light purple, not bad.

I was so impressed with Ali's work, and I was surprised to feel a little pathetic, like I had missed out on a significant part of American life: the animals, a farm, growing produce, baking and sewing. Maybe it's not too late for me, but for Ali, there's no such thing as too early. She has done more in one summer than most kids I know. I hope she and Emmy won another bright purple ribbon.

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