Oklahoma: A Life of Raising Sheep and Students of FFA and 4-H

Joy Lynch with her sheep. Photo: Oklahoma Department of Agriculture

When Joy Lynch’s father started raising sheep, it changed her life forever. It wasn’t until her sons, Keith and Kevin, were in 4-H that she realized it, however. 

“My dad, since he was raising sheep on his farm in Texas, he thought the boys should show sheep, so that’s how we got started,” Lynch said.

How the lamb made it from Nocona, Texas, where Lynch’s parents lived, to Davis, Okla., is another story.

“I had a van, and I went down to my dad’s. He said, ‘I want you to take this lamb home with you,’” Lynch said. She replied, “Well, I don’t have any way to haul that lamb home with me.” Her dad simply said, “Just put it in the back of your van there.”

Lynch did not like the idea, but her dad wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“So, I hauled the first show lamb that my kids had from Nocona, Texas, to home with me in my van,” Lynch laughed.

From that first lamb, Lynch Club Lambs was born.

“My husband was not as energetic about the sheep business as Kevin and I were,” Lynch laughed. “He would help us, but that wasn’t his thing.”

The Lynchs went to sheep sales and bought lambs from all over the country. Lynch learned how to take care of the lambs from Dr. Robert Holland who was a veterinarian.

“He taught me how to pull the lamb in case the ewe was having trouble and couldn’t deliver, which has been very beneficial down through the years,” she said.

People laugh when Lynch says she can pull lambs.

“The secret to that is wearing surgical rubber gloves, the large long-sleeved ones,” she said.

Lynch has another secret, too.

“We do eat lamb,” she said. “The secret to lamb is you serve it piping hot. It’s not good cold.”

From the Beginning

Before there were freezers in refrigerators and washing machines in houses… When telephones hung on the wall, to be cranked and sent to an operator, Joy Lynch remembers when life was simple. She was born in 1938 to S.G. and Dolly Avery Morgan. When she was 5 years old, her parents moved to Stonewall, Oklahoma, and bought a farm there.

“We had what was called a wash house out behind the house,” Lynch said. “It was where the washing machine was, the old ringer type, and the double tubs to rinse your clothes in, and then we had a smokehouse. My dad raised cattle and farmed, and he always had a few pigs, just enough so that we would have meat. We processed our own meat at that time. The meat was hung in the smokehouse to cure it out.”

Without a freezer, Lynch’s mother would can sausage in jars to preserve it. The family always had a garden and a milk cow for fresh milk to drink and to churn for butter. They did not go to the store for food.

“We were actually farmers,” she said. “Our livelihood mostly came, as far as food, from the farm.” Lynch was in 4-H, participating in speech and sewing contests and entering the fair with her canned produce. During her sophomore year in high school, the Morgans moved to Union Valley, where they got their first TV, grew an even bigger garden, and began raising sheep.

Once Lynch graduated, her parents moved to Texas. She married Lloyd Eldon Lynch in 1958 and moved to Davis, Okla., in 1965. She spent five years at the Davis First National Bank and a total of 38 years with Dolese Brothers before retiring in 2010. However, she always had her sheep.

Lynch Club Lambs and 4-H

With the help of her son Kevin, Lynch has raised show lambs for 4-H and FFA members for nearly 40 years. They have raised Dorsets, Shropshires and Crossbreds but primarily raise Suffolks.  While Lynch’s passion is her lambs, serving as a 4-H leader is just as important to her. Before she retired, she dedicated her lunch hour to club meetings and her vacation time for events.

“If we had a show somewhere, the company allowed me to take a day’s vacation,” she said, “and I would haul the kids and their animals.” Lynch always took care of the children who bought lambs from her and invited them to travel with her, too. 

“We try to help the kids that buy lambs from us, check on their lambs and help them with worming or shots,” she said. Lynch said 4-H gives students unique opportunities and teaches life skills.

“The day may come when there won’t be that supply at the grocery store, and then what will these people do? They need to learn to till the soil and grow some of the things they eat,” she said. Students need these hands-on activities, which Lynch says 4-H provides. Some of her fondest memories from 4-H come from washing lambs. Her students wouldn’t always get the lamb clean enough, so she would go with them to the wash rack.

“I’d let them wash on it a little bit, and when they told me it was finished, then I would point out the areas that still had soap on them…” she laughed. “Now by that time, they were kind of tired. They didn’t really want to do this, but I told them it’s just as important that the underneath part is as clean as the back and the side. They would get aggravated at me sometimes, but I went to the wash rack.”

Lynch says the perfect show lamb needs to be structurally sound with good muscling and adequate cover. Presentation is key. “When the lamb is standing facing you, its front feet need to be very straight… The rump, hindquarters on the lamb need to be as full as possible,” she said.

She always taught her 4-H students to raise livestock ethically and to help teach others about agriculture. “Through 4-H, we’ve tried to educate people about the meat from the lambs and the byproducts,” she said.

“Through 4-H, we’ve tried to educate people about the meat from the lambs and the byproducts,” she said.

She is thankful to have raised her sheep and a family, which now includes seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

She’s still at it.

At 80 years old, Lynch is still a 4-H leader and has been for more than 30 years.

“To me, it’s rewarding,” she said, reflecting on all the students she has worked with over the years.

Lynch has been named a Davis FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer, the 1999 Outstanding County 4-H Leader of the Year, the 2003 County 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Nominee, and the 2011 Who’s Who Among the Davis Women. The 2007 Murray County Junior Livestock Show was also dedicated to her. She still attends the livestock shows and helps anyway that she can, usually with the children and their animals, not surprisingly.

She still has a garden, teaches children at Davis First Baptist Church, volunteers as a bookkeeper for the Davis Senior Citizen Center, and volunteers with the local food bank through the commodity program.

And yes, she still raises show lambs.

“I still have the sheep at my house,” she said. “We still sell show lambs, and we have our place fenced off where we can rotate from one pasture to another. We try to sow grain to improve our pastures.”

She feeds the sheep in the mornings, and her son Kevin usually feeds them in the evenings.

“Sometimes I do have problems when it’s lambing season, but most of the time I try to take care of them [by myself] if at all possible,” she said.

She is the herdsman.

“I always went and purchased the feed and hauled it myself,” she said, “but the last four years they’ve been trying to haul the feed for me so I don’t have to lift the feed sacks. They laugh at me and say I’m getting a little old to lift the 50-pound sacks of feed.”

Joy Lynch has plenty to be thankful for, but she is especially grateful for the first lamb she hauled home in her van that started it all.

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