TOME—They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the Hollaway family wouldn’t want it any other way.
Wesley and Dustie Hollaway have been involved with 4-H since they were children themselves. The couple met at a competition through shooting sports 15 years ago and have been married for 12 of those years.
Though they lived in Bernalillo County for many years and have since then made the migration to Tomé, Dustie grew up in Valencia County and has kept the hometown ties with her own family.
“We’ve lived in Albuquerque but everything we do is in Valencia County,” Dustie said. “We are heavily involved in everything 4-H has to offer. We show animals as a family, my husband and I coach the shooting sports and my mom and I have a 4-H club together.”
Wesley and Dustie have been coaching shooting sports for 10 years and have even taken two teams to 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships.
“The thing I love most about coaching is that we have a lot of kids who have never been involved in this stuff before, and to be able to teach a kid something that he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life. It’s neat to be a part of that,” Wesley said.
The couple often sees former students around town, some of whom end up bringing their own child to learn shooting. The Hollaways see students from 9 years of age up to seniors in high school. They coach shooting through the local 4-H program and a program called Youth Hunter Education Challenge.
“We take a group of at least 20 kids from 6 to 19 years old, and teach them about gun safety, and we have never had anything close to an incident,” Wesley said. “Through programs like this, it teaches kids how to do things responsibly and the right way.”
Dustie said a lot of attitudes towards guns come from a lack of knowledge about how to responsibly use them.
“All they see is video games, where they kill somebody and the person is back alive two seconds later. They don’t comprehend the fact that that’s not how it happens in real life,” Dustie said.
Their son, Gauge, age 12, picked up archery along with shooting and showing livestock. Their daughter, Breelii, age 10, has also taken to showing livestock and is in her first official year of being in the 4-H organization.
Both children agree that their favorite part about showing livestock is attending the fairs.
“When you’re at shows, you’re there all day working on your animals. It’s pretty crazy,” Gauge said. “At night, if you’re at the state fair, you get to go to rodeos and the carnival.”
A regular day in the life of the Hollaway family includes feeding and washing their animals, exercising them and sometimes moving their cows between pastures for grazing.
The family leases different pastures across the state and every few months they move the cattle to a different location to keep them healthy.
“The biggest thing that I love most about any of the showing projects is that we raise our own cattle. So from the day that calf hits the ground to the day it’s shown and sold, these kids are responsible for it 100 percent,” Wesley said. “I think that’s what makes it so rewarding, because from October until the last day of the show, it’s an every day affair. These kids are with the animals more than they’re with anything else.”
Gauge and Breelii are involved with every aspect of raising their animals, Wesley said.
“It’s definitely a long term commitment and a financial and physical investment,” Dustie said. “I think that’s the thing people don’t realize. Livestock is a major part of it and it’s a major part of our life, but it’s so much more that 4-H has to offer that has benefited not only my kids, but kids who are not able to have livestock.”
Gauge participated in indoor projects last year, meaning he participated in projects that range from arts and crafts to various types of science projects.
Wesley said participating in the New Mexico State Fair is great for meeting people who share the same interests, especially for the children.
“State fair is a lot of fun,” he said. “Gauge loves the pig barn at state fair because he has friends from all over the state who he likes to play with.”
Dustie said they have friends from all around New Mexico who they get to see at various events throughout the year, the final of the events ending at the State Fair.
“We go through the whole showing process and if we make sale, we make sale. But whatever we don’t sell ends up in the freezer at the end of the year, so it also feeds the family,” Wesley said. “It’s good for the kids to learn where their meat comes from. With the changing climate around us, especially with COVID-19, it’s important for them to be self-sufficient.”
Dustie says the 4-H program is something that positively impacts her children in all aspects of life because they learn responsibility, good sportsmanship and hard work.
“If they win a competition, great, but if they lose, they learn to shake the hand of their opponent with a good attitude,” she said. “I always hear from my kids’ teachers about how respectful they are, and a lot of that shows where they were raised and what kind of people they were raised around.”
Dustie said the community of families involved with 4-H is something she’s proud to raise her children around, and if a parent isn’t able to get involved with the program, the other parents are more than willing to step in and help the child to the best of their abilities.
“The group of people that we surround ourselves with is just an amazing group of people,” Wesley said. “I think involving your kid in these kinds of things truly makes them a good adult and have a good head on their shoulders.”