Editor’s note: Blair Westbrook originally wrote the following essay as part of a Del Norte Scholarship Fund application.
Every day when I drive the 16 miles home after a grueling day of music, academics, and a sports practice, I pass a weathered, time-tested tractor that sits in the shop yard at our family dairy farm.
This tractor, the oldest in the small fleet of John Deere tractors at Reservation Ranch, has seen a wide variety of uses and has had to be retooled multiple times to fit new jobs or purposes. Although not the smartest nor the most specialized, this tractor is a jack of all trades in a world of specialization and one-track-mindedness.
It was not until just recently that I realized its true vitality. This open-cabbed, unsophisticated workhorse was the one tool that had weathered the years of toil and tortuous conditions of work in an operation that had been living and residing concurrently with the land for decades.
I am that John Deere Tractor.
Growing and developing in a beautiful home, where the Smith River flows turquoise and crystal clear and redwood-covered mountains give way to rolling green pastures, my family has become more and more connected with the land.
For many families such as mine, a century of residence in our beautiful county has rooted us deeply in the land we hail from. This establishment of roots has helped generation after generation embrace a quality that applies to both the physical world and all other walks of life: stewardship.
In a place where strong work ethic transcends all aspects of life, and possessing an established character is seen as a greater achievement than any sort of success itself, sometimes it’s not the most cutting edge that succeeds but instead the hardest-working.
Throughout my life, I have seen and lived the constant monotony of a herd of black and white Holstein heifers, but I have also experienced enriching activities such as museums, national parks, and even San Francisco-style concerts, along with traveling to countries such as Germany and Chile.
Combine those life changing experiences I’ve had with a warm, loving, high achieving home, and you get a young man who is considerate, hard-working, open-minded, and strives to be nothing less than the best, while always keeping a positive, fun attitude.
This home, a jumble of arts, sports and fitness, and a hint of blue-collar work ethic and charm, has inspired me to pursue dreams such as singing and playing three varsity sports, while also continuing to grow as a student and a human being.
Whether it be in the classroom, on the court, in the choir, or on the dairy, I have always striven to continue that stewardship, portraying the character and work ethic so important to me through my efforts in all that I do.
As a young man headed toward college, I don’t see life as I’ve known it to be coming to an end. Instead, I see myself in a place similar to that of the trusty, rusty John Deere, simply retooling and preparing to carry on life.
As I look toward the future, I see myself continuing to be a steward, serving people and also animals as a large animal veterinarian. That goal stems from a love for animals, and a lifelong commitment to husbandry through my 4-H involvement.
My interaction with animals and people in this field, throughout my life, has been something that has bettered me as a steward and a human being. Although this task comes with hardships, obstacles and years of schooling, I see it as a challenge that can be weathered through work ethic, commitment, and a certain brand of strong character.
Just like the character that is embodied by the faded John Deere green of that tractor, which I am confident will still be hard at work when I make that same 16-mile drive on a veterinary visit to my home.
Blair Westbrook is one of two valedictorians this year at Del Norte High School, where he will graduate Friday along with 191 of his peers.