These little lambs had a lot of help

By Regina Villiers. Originally published September 2, 1992 in The Suburban Life, added November 2022.

Eddie Burton with his two lambs

In  the  world  of  nursery rhymes, Mary had a little lamb who followed her to school.

Like Mary, Eddie Burton, who lives on Juler Avenue in Madeira, also had a little lamb – actually, two of them. But when Eddie went back to school this fall, his lambs didn’t follow him. They did, however, follow him all the way to the Hamilton County Fair.

This summer, while most kid were hanging out at the mall .or the pool, Eddie was busy raising and caring for two lambs as 4-H project, “Market Lambs.” I was hard and dirty work at times, but Eddie thrived on it.

Eddie has never shied away from work. Living across the street from him and watching him grow up, I can attest to that. Eddie always seemed to just wait for the leaves to fall so that he could rake them. When it snowed, Eddie was the first on out with a shovel, looking for jobs,  shoveling his own and neighbors’ driveways.

So, it seemed only natural that Eddie  would  take  on 4H projects.

Eddie, now 16 years old, has been in 4-H about six years.

Eddie started out in 4-H by raising rabbits. He also raised rabbits this year, showing six at the fair, winning a second-place showmanship  trophy I and a fistful of ribbons with them.

But Eddie, this year, though he was ready for more ,responsibility and decided to raise lambs, in addition to his rabbits.

Baclc in the spring, Eddie got his two lambs from Marvin Discler, who has a sheep farm out in the country. Discler has volunteered and helped with 4-H youngsters for years.

He provides lambs for them for a token fee, which the 4-Hers are required to pay themselves Marvin also advised Eddie on the care, of his lambs and sheared them for him and helped him get them ready for showing at the fair.

Discler also conducts a sheep shearing demonstration  each day at  the fair, using the Australian method of shearing starting underneath, on the chest area.

Eddie built and prepared living  quarters  for  his  lambs building a pen and using a she that had been given to him by the George  Meyer  Company  in Madeira.

He received full cooperation and support from neighbors especially the Douglas Oppenheimer. Doug pitched in whenever needed by offering advice, moral support and actual labor.

He transported the lambs back to the Discler farm for their shearing and grooming before their showing at the fair.

On the day Eddie showed the lambs, the entire Oppenheimer family – who had watched the lambs grow into sheep – showed up at the fair to cheer and lend support from the stands.

”This is something important for kids,” Oppenheimer said. ”It not only teaches them .about work and responsibility, but it teaches them about finance and money. Eddie not only had to feed and care for the lambs, but he had to buy and pay for their feed and supplies. He had to manage and account for  his expenses and profit.”

At the fair, Eddie camped out and stayed there for the whole week. With the help of his grandfather, he. pitched a tent where he could be near to care for his lambs. He also helped out around the animal barns wherever he could.

On the day of the showing, both Eddie and his lambs performed well, making his assembled Juler Avenue neighbors, his grandfather and his mother proud. One of the lambs won third place. Not bad for a city kid.

According the Sherry Mattes, a Madeira 4-H advisor, it’s not unusual for city kids to compete with farm youngsters in 4-H.

“There are many who do,” she said. “This is possible in Madeira because Madeira still has open spaces and big, rural backyards.”

Mattes has been Madeira’s 4-H advisor for 18 years, and during this time, Madeira has built up a distinguished  record  of  4-H winners.

Like most fairy tales and nursery rhymes, the story of Eddie’s lambs has a happy ending. Although the lambs had to be sold at auction, Oppenheimer and his company bought one lamb and immediately gave it back to Eddie, as did the purchasers of the other one.

Eddie then returned the lambs to the Discler farm, where he has-been assured that they will grow into mature sheep and will not become lamb chops.

He has also been assured by Marvin Discler that two more baby lambs will be available to him next spring for another project for next year.

Eddie can hardly wait.

Regina Villiers is a writer who has lived in Madeira for 25 years. Her column appears regularly in the Suburban Life-Press. If you have an idea or comment, you may write to her in care of Press Community  Newspapers,  9121 Union Cemetery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45249.