Nora Swango Stanger: Summer 4-H memories

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2019

My nieces and nephews are keeping up the family tradition of embracing the 4-H organization.

Niece Leslie and her husband, BJ, are constantly planning wonderful community service projects and helping their young members stay on track with their county fair projects.
I think the best thing about 4-H is the way it brings family and community together.

Summertime brings many chances for families to participate in activities they cannot during the school year. You could choose to stay in your house and play video games or you could ignite curiosity and be adventurous.

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I remember a 4-H talent show our club entered. We were the Aaron’s Creek 4-H club, and several kids up and down the creek were included with our family. Our ‘act’ was based on the Porgy and Bess musical. My sister Ruth sang ‘Summertime’ in a very serious and moving fashion while the rest of us pantomimed the words to the song.

Dean Bruce, dressed in an oversized suit coat and wearing a fedora and carrying Monopoly money, was the daddy. Sister Amy was Mamma, dressed in a frilly dress and high heels. I wore an oversized diaper over my clothes and a bonnet as the baby. Our mom turned a piece of cardboard into a fish tail and covered it with scales so that Linda could be the fish. Finally,

Mom taped cotton balls all over my brother Mike who was taller than the rest of us.
At the opening of our act, Baby-Nora sat in a chair in the middle of the stage as Ruth stood stage right. Ruth sang, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” At which time, Fish-Linda did a funny walk-like-swim motion across the stage and Cotton-Mike ran across the stage with his arms, covered in cotton balls, waving high in the air.

“Your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good lookin’” Daddy-Dean walked to the baby counting his Monopoly money, while Mamma-Amy held a mirror to her face as she primped her hair, to be with her sweet over-sized infant .

“So hush little baby don’t you cry,” at which time Baby-Nora stood up and wailed causing Daddy-Dean and Mamma-Amy to slap their hands over Baby-Nora’s mouth and push her back down into her chair.

As Ruth continued to sing with great emotion, as though she were at Carnegie Hall, “One of these mornin’s you’re gonna rise up singin’,” Baby-Nora stands, with an adventurous spirit and croaks out “La la la”

“You’re gonna spread your wings and take to the sky.” Baby-Nora flaps her arms dramatically.

“But till that mornin,’” Daddy-Bruce and Mamma-Amy push Baby-Nora back into the chair.

“There’s a nothin’ can harm you.” Baby-Nora begins to protest and cry.

“With Daddy and Mamma standin by.” Daddy-Dean and Mamma-Amy use one hand to cover the child’s mouth and the other to wrap around her in a hug.

Ruth sang the moving rendition of George Gershwin’s song through twice. By the time we were finished with our act, the county agent and other community leaders in the audience were nearly falling out of their chairs with laughter.

This all goes to show, you don’t have to have a lot of money or fancy possessions to have a very rich childhood experience. Perhaps all it takes to strengthen families and communities is learning to have fun together, to work together and to explore together.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at