By Pettus L. Read
Director of Communications for Tennessee Farm Bureau
During the years I spent in elementary and high school, each morning was begun with the entire class bowing our heads in prayer and then reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag as a classmate led us in that privilege to do so. It was a special time in our day and today I realize it was a very special time in our lives due to the sad realization that my grandchildren will not be given that privilege. Why? Not because the majority felt that it was not the way to start a student’s day, but because one person became out of sorts over the process and everyone else buckled. I know that may sound too simple over what has happened over all of this these years concerning this terminal issue, but it’s my opinion put in a way that goes right to the point. The point being is that it is often easier to given in than to stand up.
Recently, a group of young farmers who make up the Dekalb County Young Farmer and Rancher organization were looking for a way to provide funds to help high school graduates go to college in their area. It seemed to them that just about every kind of fundraiser had been tried in their county and they were looking for something unique and different to get enough money for a scholarship. Since Dekalb County is known for Center Hill Lake and its abundant fishing, as well as hunting resources, the group thought that taking one of the area’s favorite hunting sports and forming a contest would be a good idea to raise some cash for graduates.
During the summer, most of the locals and hunters in the area around Dekalb County enjoy frog gigging. Frog gigging requires you to take a flashlight, a frog gig, some good boots and a buddy with a sack to visit a real wet area where the frogs live. There you harvest the frogs under the guidelines and rules of the area game warden, as well as the state of Tennessee. You can take no more than twenty frogs and after your hunt you can have some of the best eating from the frog legs you harvest. Dekalb County has some of the largest bullfrogs I have ever seen. Because of this fact, the idea of a “Giggin For Grads” contest was born and about one of the greatest ideas I had ever heard of. On the night of July 12 the contest was held and it was held despite the out of sorts feelings of some folks way up in other parts of this country that didn’t have a frog in the hunt.
As soon as the “Giggin For Grads” contest was announced, PETA and other animal welfare groups got on social media to protest the young farmer’s efforts. They claimed how cruel it was to the frogs and how taking the frogs would hurt the environment. They demanded the contest be stopped. A petition was even started worldwide by a group in Connecticut. They got 410 signatures worldwide to stop the contest.
The thing that caught my attention was how a Nashville TV station ran two stories on how the animal rights group was protesting the contest and gave them airtime to voice their feelings about cruelty to the frogs. The fact that a group of young people were raising funds for college scholarships by means of a legal decades old hunting sport, regulated by the state of Tennessee laws and the harvesting of a product served on the tables of Nashville’s very own finest restaurants seemed to have not been very important in the reports. The news only wanted to cover the controversy.
The protest groups called the young farmers daily, made unpleasant calls to the high school where the registration for the event would be held and even included the name and phone numbers of the principal on their web post so the world could call him to protest. It was uglier than warts on a frog the way these groups acted. Their goal was to stop the contest, but their efforts seemed to have croaked.
The young farmer group held tough. The community held even tougher. Other young farmers joined them and the contestant numbers grew from an expected 20-plus entries to almost 100 entries. Donations were sent to the event from people from adjoining counties and the scholarship fund grew to more than $1,000. Due to the efforts of PETA and the animal groups more frogs were harvested that evening than planned, but that made for a better frog leg supper to celebrate the event’s success.
Instead of the hundreds who were to come and protest in Smithville that night, only four showed up with their signs. The young farmers supplied them with water and food, as well as kindness. Later in the night about five more arrived, but as one young farmer said, “Every one is welcome to their opinion, but not their way.”
These young people could have easily said they didn’t have time to deal with the problem. But, instead they knew they were right and faced it head on. It was so good to see this group stand up rather than give up. If they had been around a few years back, our grandchildren might still be saying the pledge and praying in school.
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm
Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org