The late Susan Roberts Patton may not have been aware of the positive impact she had on many Hamburg-area youngsters as the leader of the Kids for Kids 4-H group, but several examples of her loving influence can be found at the Southeast Arkansas District Livestock Show at Hestand Stadium here.
“Miss Susie changed my life,” said 17-year-old Hamburg High School senior Lexie Pennington. “I will tell you that I was a bad kid, but she changed my whole perspective on life. She helped me to learn how caring for animals is a good way to care for others and myself, too. Without her and without my animals, I wouldn’t be who I am and what I’m going to be.”
Pennington, a daughter of Scott and Lori Pennington, won various awards in cattle, goat and poultry competitions, including a pair of top honors. Her schoolmate, Ryley Culp, is proud of his champion bull that’s on display. Culp, a 17-year-old junior, is a son of Matthew and Brandi Culp of Crossett.
Culp credits Patton with “getting me started with show animals.”
“I have a passion for animals anyway, but she helped me in carrying that further,” he said. “Working with animals has made me a better person. It gives me a responsibility and a chance to to really do something meaningful. Working with animals gives you a purpose, and that’s something I would like to thank her for.”
Patton was just 46 when she died Nov. 1 after heart surgery. But she touched many hearts during her brief life, Pennington said.
“She loved her 4-H kids and they loved her,” said Pennington, whose mother has assumed the Kids for Kids leadership. “Miss Susie loved taking care of her animals, too, and you could just see how the animals responded to her and loved her as well. I wish she was at the fair with us so she could see how well we’ve done with our animals. If she was here, I would hug her and thank her so much for all she’s done for me and her other 4-H kids.”
Pennington and Culp also expressed admiration for their HHS Future Farmers of America advisor, Don Wallace.
“FFA and 4-H give students a fun way to learn and stay out of trouble,” said Culp, described by Pennington as “my absolute best friend.”
Culp is looking at attending the University of Arkansas at Monticello or the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston to get his education for a nursing career.
“But no matter what, I’m going to continue showing animals and working on my show cars,” he said.
His family owns a 1932 Ford Coupe, a 1970 Chevrolet Camaro and a rare Chrysler Prowler concept car.
“Ryley took me to the winter formal (dance) at the high school in the Prowler,” boasted Penningon. “I think that would be a fun car for us to go to the senior prom in, too.”
Pennington, meanwhile, plans for a vocation focused on her affection for farm animals.
”I want to go to Conners State College in Warner, Okla., and get a degree in livestock management,” she said.
And then what?
“Well, I want to come back to Arkansas and live around a bigger place,” she replied. “Pine Bluff would be a good place. I want to be able to bring kids in off the streets and have them get involved with learning about animals and helping to raise them. That would give those kids something to do to stay out of trouble and learn about loving and caring.
“I think that would make Miss Susie happy.”