Calf fries and sweet tea served with a side of Baker humor at FFA Labor Auction

by Toni Hopper

The darkness of the night had taken over, but artificial light provided just enough for Quaid Kennan and a few FFA students as calf fries cooked in the parking lot outside the local First Baptist Church in Marlow.

Kennan, the ag instructor and FFA advisor, at Marlow High School sorted the raw meat so it could be cooked. Inside the FBC Life Center, about 40 FFA youth, their families, several school faculty and supporters of the program were gathering for the annual Labor Sale Auction and meal.

Fried calf fries and chicken tenders dominated the olfactory system of those entering the building which serves as a community center for many functions. If you were hungry, there’s a good chance that you would try the calf fries, also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters, Cowboy Caviar and a few other descriptive names. Most of the chapter members spent the day cleaning those calf fries and prepping them for the meal. Others helped with the set-up of the tables and chairs. In this program, everyone contributes.

FFA President Kennedy Kizarr introduced her officer’s team before instructing the adults to line up for the meal, and students could follow after the line shortened.

“Nope” was offered in a variety of ways by just a few of the FFA students who were quick to pass on having any calf fries added to their plates in the serving line. Some students shook their heads, made a face or put up their hands to gesture they weren’t ready to try the delicacy. Most of the adults didn’t hesitate.

“It takes like chicken, but has a lingering aftertaste,” said one man. And even though it was cool on that first night of December, most everyone grabbed a white polystyrene foam

cup of sweet tea. After all, any southerner knows fried “anything” needs tea. Once the crowd settled down and everyone had visited throughout the room, it was time for the real work to happen.

Kenny Baker wasn’t just another guy standing on the stage to do an auctioneer’s job. Most everyone knew him. And in the audience, if he spied a stranger or two, he introduced himself. He had a goal.

“Invest in this program.”

As he said those words to the crowd eating their fried foods and drinking their sweet tea, Baker’s mind was less on the dollars and more on the impact of a program that’s been changing lives of young people since 1928.

“This program is the reason ‘Kenny Baker’ is who he is. I don’t know that I would have graduated high school, but I had an ag teacher who took an interest in me and brought me up.”

His son, Korben Baker, is an officer in the program. “This is my son’s last year in high school, so we’re going to have fun and have a good time (tonight).”

Kizarr was first on the auction list, but Baker stopped long enough to encourage Korben Baker and Hunter Miller to scream “yep” when they spotted a bid. He didn’t have to tell them twice. They took their roles seriously, even though Baker made them laugh often, as he did nearly everyone in the room. Baker knew how to stir the crowd.

By the end of the night, the team effort raised $17,120 for the program. The younger Baker earned the chapter $1,050, though the emotional tears and heartfelt speech delivered by his father may have impacted the bidding. Baker had to remove his glasses, wipe his eyes and his voice, well, let’s just say, you might think he was auditioning for a role in Hollywood.

“This is my best friend. He’s gonna get mad at me for saying this, but he’ll do anything you want him to do. He’s a good kid. I don’t know where he got it, he took after his grandma. You need a fence built, a well, anything, he’ll do it.”

Baker entertained as he shared stories about each of the FFA members who were on the stage for their sale moment. Most of them he knew, and if he didn’t know them, he asked them what they could do. Then he sold that to the crowd.

This one, he’s a landscaper … or … he can drive a tractor … and when Maci Miller took her place next to him, he asked her, “you still selling those Herefords?” She laughed, said no.

Phil Fleetwood of Fleetwood Farms was the winning bidder for the younger Baker’s labor.

Fleetwood also dropped $600 on his grandson, Major Fleetwood, a freshman in the program.

Other top earners were Aubree Harmon, $600; Clayton Robinson, $550; Jack Glover, $650; and the officer team, $1,000. Some of the members entertained the crowd with their athletic abilities – doing pushups while the auction rolled along, generating a few more dollars for the program. The FFA Officer Team earned $1,000 and were last on the auction list. Even Kennan did his share of push-ups.

Besides labor being bought, there were quite a few desserts. Baker sold Kennan’s “mom’s” fudge for $400 to Travis Plumbing. Two jars of homemade cinnamon candies were auctioned off separately – one for $130. An Outlaw head trailer hitch sold for $300 and “Crack Cake” made by Miller’s grandma fetched $225. Baker made sure the FFA youth were paying attention “to how it’s done.”

Originally, the list of labor sales included 55 students, but only 40 of those were able to attend the event.

Following are the FFA members and the individuals or businesses who the students will donate 8 hours of labor, thanks to the annual auction fundraiser for the chapter program.

Kennedy Kizarr: Mary Newman; Katy Diedrich: Scott’s; Emma Throckmorton: BancFirst; Ruby Crow: First National Bank; Maci Miller: BancFirst; Hunter Miller: Curtis Hutton; Korben Baker: Fleetwood Farms; Alex Nowlin: J&E Metal Sales; Ayden Williams: Marlow Tag Agency; Bradley Summers: J&E Metal Sales; Noah Vanston: Carrie Dickerson; Andrew Wollenburg: Jeremy Miller; Kade Sullivan: Corey Holland; Kellen Welch: Sparks Construction; Madelyn Elroy: Eric Spurlock; Aubree Harmon: Travis Plumbing; Brayden Brantley: Daryn Brantley; Briley Stoll: Russell Stoll; Brody Brantley: Mrs. Brantley; Cason Hughes: Cecelia Williams; Clayton Robinson: Mr. Sullivan Farms; Kadan Heaton: Brad Throckmorton; AJ Cedillo: Sparks Construction; Avery Throckmorton: Tadd Pryor; Billie Lewis: Ronnie Cull; Brody Morris: Jeremy Miller; Carson Lovett: Scott Farms; Connor Schmidt: Marlin Sullivan; Conor Hutton: Sparks Construction; Dani Howard: J&E Metal Sales; Jack Glover: Fleetwood Farms; Joseph Hickam: Eric Spurlock: Katelyn Reynolds: Sparks Construction; Kinley Castle: Carrie Dickerson; Kylie Sullivan: Mary Newman; Major Fleetwood: Fleetwood Farms; Paytin Nunn: Brad Throckmorton; Reese Dickerson: Ricky Sparks; Shawn Armstrong: Edward Jones (Lynn Bailey); Troy Gruver: Josh Gruver; Ethan Vanston: Sparks Construction; Officer Team: Travis Plumbing; Mr. Quaid Kennan: Harmon.

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