Russell Pierson gets a kick out of throwing out a fact and then watching a person's eyes for his or her reaction.
Where were you raised, Russell? He replied: “In Greer County, three miles north of Mangum ... ” Then he paused before continuing with the part of the answer he knew would catch my attention “ ... on a farm that my great-grandmother filed on at Greer County, Texas, because it was Texas at the time.”
“It was Oklahoma by the time I got here,” he said and chuckled. “I was born in 1911 and if God lets me live another seven or eight months to Dec. 15, I'll be writing down three figures when I write down my age.
“I think I'll live longer if I keep my mind active.”
This week, about 1,000 4-H Club and FFA members, coaches and sponsors from 35 states will come to Oklahoma City for the 60th Annual National Land and Range Judging Contest, a three-day event that stresses soil and plant science, land management and conservation. While here, they will have the opportunity to see for themselves this 99-year-old is still witty and active.
He originally became involved with the competition during its early years in the 1950s while serving as the WKY radio and television farm and ranch broadcaster. Today, he's still involved as an ambassador. When contestants arrive for check-in, they'll hear a few words from Pierson. When it comes time to eat, Pierson will help direct traffic.
“It's important not only to me, but to Oklahoma and to the nation because these 4-H Club and FFA members need to know the basics of agriculture,” said Pierson, who graduated from Oklahoma A&M in 1937.
“They learn conservation, how to improve the soil, how to save the soil and of course in the range area they learn which plants are useful and which plants are of no value to agriculture. It really is important and the civic community has been so supportive of it through the years.”
While practice days are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the competition is Thursday. The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage. Each year a different farm, ranch, company or some other organization or agency hosts the contest site on its land near the Oklahoma City metro area.