Every 4-H’er has a story. A unique, encouraging, empowering story. This is Hale County 4-H member, Graden Allen’s story.
Fifteen-year-old Graden Allen from Abernathy, Texas, is a third-generation steer showman, and the achiever of a three-generation long goal. But that accomplishment is not where his story begins…
Since becoming a 4-H member in 3rd grade, Graden has shown steers, participated in livestock and meat judging, excelled in livestock skill-a-thon and quiz bowl, won public speaking contests, and currently serves as a Livestock Ambassador. Graden said that basically, if it has anything to do with livestock, you can bet he’s going to try it.
Graden is also very active in Abernathy High School where he’s currently a sophomore participating in UIL, FFA, and his personal favorite, various types of sports.
Sports and steers were the center of Graden’s world until about two years ago when a unique accident caused a severe injury to his back and tail bone. After spending two days going to practices and bearing the pain alone to avoid causing anyone any trouble, it was on a regularly scheduled family chiropractor visit that the injury came to light.
It was in that office, just moments after the telling X-ray was read that Graden spoke his biggest fears, that he would never be able to step on a football field or in a show ring again. Adversely, his greatest triumph was his desire to make things just as they were before.
Graden is a walking testimony, quite literally, to the power of physical therapy and true grit as he and his family chose to forego surgery due to his age. While he is still participating in physical therapy and working to gain strength every day, Graden has truly taken the words determination and perseverance to a new level as he continues to live his life and achieve heights many suspected he would not.
His new situation meant managing the sports teams he once gave his all as a player, allowing his brother and Dad to take a little more responsibility with the halter breaking process, finding a new passion in meat judging, and getting creative with how to tuck in a show shirt that sat atop a back brace. While many things still had to change, no matter how hard he pushed against that change, Graden’s story is one of success nonetheless because of the attitude he kept through it all.
Graden Allen’s Mom, Stephanie, emphasized that Graden didn’t want anyone to know anything had happened to him; he didn’t want sympathy, shortcuts, or attention, but rather, success in his new normal.
The changes that were thrown at Graden in an instant produced a profound example of the determination that 4-H instills in young people. In 2020, less than a year after his injury, Graden walked into the show ring, with a little help from a back brace, at the Fort Worth Stock Show on the end of an animal that ended the day as the Reserve Grand Champion American Steer.
That win meant more than just a banner or even a top sale spot. Graden’s Grandpa was finally able to see a goal he’d set many years ago become reality. The two celebrated this champion spot at a major livestock show accomplishment together and reminisced on the success story that Graden had in and out of the ring.
In addition to the leadership skills Graden has grasped in 4-H, he said one of top lessons has been how “win humbly and lose graciously.”
4-H is a program that instills strength, determination, and so much more into the young people who give their all. Graden Allen is one of those young people. To learn more about 4-H visit texas4-h.tamu.edu or contact your local AgriLife Extension office.