From “No” to Show
Reluctant 4-H’er Becomes True Leader
Story by Keri Collins Lewis • Photos by Kevin Hudson
A tale as old as time: A boy’s older relative advises him to join 4-H. He refuses.
“I had just started bow hunting and I loved to deer hunt,” Ty Herchenhahn recalls about his 11-year-old self. “Show season is right in the middle of deer season. They weren’t compatible in my eyes.”
On top of that, Ty had several unfavorable preconceived notions about 4-H’ers.
“I thought it was going to be a bunch of rednecks out there shooting guns and showing cows,” he says with a laugh. “So my great aunt Melleen Moore signed me up without my knowledge because she had loved 4-H.”
After Ty spent several years in Forrest County 4-H showing cows and shooting bows and firearms alongside numerous young people he counts as friends, he’s glad she did.
“4-H is definitely not what I thought it was going to be, but I had fun from the first shooting sports practice,” he says. “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and I thought I was good at shooting. I found older kids that I looked up to, and realized I wanted to be like them one day.”
Ty developed his skills in shooting sports, including archery (compound bow) and muzzleloader. But his true passion is for showing Simmental beef cattle.
He and his older brother, Roby, now a junior at Oklahoma State University, learned how much effort is required to raise show cattle. Their father, C.O., also a former 4-H’er, supports and encourages their efforts.
“I’m up here every morning at 6 a.m. Whether it’s sunny, hailing, or raining sideways, I’ve got to be here,” Ty explains. “Catching, feeding, working hair, washing, drying, clipping, fitting, all of that. There’s a lot more work with a show cow than a herd cow.”
Ty explains that it is a chore to do the work required to be successful in the show ring, but he loves it and would not trade it for anything, regardless of the challenges.
“When I put my mind to something, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability,” Ty asserts. “I do what a 4-H’er would do—try to make the best better in everything I do. Stop and help the person who needs it, and treat others like I want to be treated.”
When Kelly Lassiter became the Extension 4-H agent for Forrest County, she began to nudge the brothers toward leadership projects. Ty served as a state shooting sports ambassador, 4-H Council ambassador, Southeast District vice president, president of Forrest County 4-H Junior Council, and treasurer and vice president for the county club.
“She made everything fun and taught us to work things out with each other, no matter what,” he says. “I set a goal to be the person others look up to, and I have to be on my toes. There’s always someone watching, whether it’s that 80-year-old man in the stands watching me show or a little 4-year-old girl down in the stall,” he says.
Matt Thornton, who started work as the Forrest County Extension agriculture and natural resources/4-H agent in January 2017, first met Ty at the 4-H awards banquet and confirms that Ty has achieved his goal.
“You could tell when he walked in the room that all the kids really admire him. There was a buzz about him,” Thornton observes. “He’s a credit to his family and all of the agents before me.”
Extension County Coordinator Tawnya Holliman said Ty has matured into a respectful young man.
“He’s very responsible and always likes to pull his weight,” she says. “If you ask him to help, he helps. He shows up on time and is the last one to leave. I’m excited to watch how he grows and blossoms in life, because he will. We are very proud of him in Forrest County!”
Ty credits 4-H with guiding him to a career in agriculture. He has begun his first year of college at Jones County Junior College, and he plans to pursue a degree at Mississippi State University.
His final 4-H show was December 16, 2017, but he plans to continue to participate in open shows, such as the one at the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo. He also plans to volunteer with 4-H once he is eligible.
“4-H has done so much for me; I want to pay them back,” he promises. “I will always be connected to 4-H.”