PJ Griekspoor's grandchildren using wheat simulator
GOOD DRIVER: Geneva takes a turn at “combining” wheat on a computer monitor. She had a little trouble making the turns, but she picked up fast on keeping the header full.

Learning lessons, sharing laughs at the 3i Show

It was a joy to watch my grandkids 'steer' a virtual combine and learn about static electricity.

Have you ever noticed that there is nothing quite as awesome as introducing kids or grandkids to new things and to what you do?

I had that opportunity at the end of March when I took my daughter and her four kids with me to the annual 3i Show in Dodge City, Kan.

This year’s show had quite a few opportunities for kids to get some hands-on fun, including “driving” a virtual combine, watching irrigation demonstrations, and learning about static electricity and lightning at the Dodge City National Weather Service booth. Not to mention climbing on big machinery and collecting a Halloween-style haul of candy by visiting booths inside the Expo Center.

WORLD OF TOYS: When you are a kid, every ladder looks like a climbing toy. For the grandkids, that included feed mixers. From left, the kids are Jaime, Lewis, Michele and Geneva.

There’s just nothing quite like watching a kid make discoveries. I have to admit that even at my age, I still get a thrill out of coming across something brand new. It’s one of the things that I love about my job — new discoveries are always just around the corner.

But the intense amazement that can cross a kid’s face is its own reward.

This year, watching 9-year-old Geneva try her hand at “combining” a field of wheat was one of those events. The simulator was set up to show the advantages of an auto-steer system. To Geneva, it was a game that she wanted to play over and over.

The exhibitor was extraordinarily patient and I can only be grateful for that.

Another great moment came at the booth of the National Weather Service office at Dodge City, which had a display set up to show how lightning works, complete with a Barbie doll atop a metal ball and a static electricity producer.

Turn on the current and Barbie’s hair stands on end as the ball spins round and round. Touch the environment and you get a shock similar to sliding your socks along the carpet in the winter time, then touching a doorknob.

The kids were fascinated by the hair-raising, but reticent about touching the ball. OK, confession. Grandma also declined the shock. The meteorologists manning the booth were OK with that. They explained that what they really wanted the kids to remember is that when you are outside and you feel that static charge in your hair, you need to hit the ground — fast. And when it passes, you need to get indoors as fast as you can.

I really hope that most kids were impressed enough to remember that. I’m not sure my grandkids were. They were way too interested in just exactly how the machine that raised Barbie’s hair worked and what made it stop working. The folks at the booth explained the electron flow but not really what it had to do with lightning.

THE SEARCH: When you’ve picked up candy at every booth at a farm show, sometimes you have to just take a break and search for your favorite.

I told them how this related to Dad making them get out of the swimming pool when a thunderstorm was approaching, and finally Lewis said: “You mean your hair standing up is LIGHTNING?” And bravo, we finally have the point.

I applaud the patient folks at NWS Dodge City for hanging in there and getting to this point and, by the way, at their patience at dealing with the harassment that I witnessed at the booth. My daughter was incensed at the people who came by to tell “you people” how they should forecast the weather to improve their forecasts, including “watching how the ants build domes.”

She said “Don’t they know the education these people have? Don’t they know how hard forecasting is?”

And I said, “No, they don’t. They just hate having anything turn out like they didn’t expect. Or in some cases, didn’t want, even though that was the forecast.”

So here is a big hoo-rah to the NWS, the forecasts they offer and the products they supply that help the public get a heads-up. And another hoo-rah to the private sector that uses the raw materials they get from the NWS for more pinpointed warnings.

And thanks for introducing my grandkids to the understanding that there is a lot more to weather than just the question of, “Is it going to rain tomorrow?”

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