Garry Darby’s first duty each day at the Fort Worth Stock Show is to transport a precious cargo.
“I’m the only other one who can touch the incubator,” said Darby, a 71-year-old Burleson resident who’s volunteered in the Children’s Barnyard since 1998.
Over his almost two decades of service, Darby earned the trust of Stock Show President and General Manager Brad Barnes, who personally “sits” eggs in incubators sequestered in a room of the Stock Show’s offices.
It’s a short trip across Burnett-Tandy Drive from the incubator to an enclosure in the barnyard, which is located in between the swine and sheep barns.
Once the dozen or so eggs are placed under a brood lamp, children and adults alike are enthralled by the spectacle of chicks breaking out of their shells.
It’s a miracle to them.
Garry Darby, longtime Stock Show volunteer
Darby was hard-pressed to describe what he feels when he sees the emotions on folks’ faces as they watch chicks hatching.
“It’s a miracle to them,” Darby said. “They’ll stand there an hour or two waiting to watch them fall out. It’s not just kids, but adults, too.”
Darby and other adult volunteers mostly keep out of the way while a rotating handful of FFA students from area schools help introduce visitors to the farm animals and try to answer questions about how the baby pigs, ducks, sheep, chickens and other critters are nurtured.
Sometimes, they’re stuck for answers.
Chase Malone, 16, of Venus, held an hours-old chick as close to the enclosure’s chain link as he was allowed so that Sam Hailey, 7, and his 8-year-old brother, Gen, of Godley could get closer looks. But when one asked how long before it would be a chicken, Malone was stumped.
“I show pigs,” Malone explained.
His expertise was in an adjacent enclosure, where a massive mama pig often was found lying on her side as four piglets enjoyed frequent meals.
Visitors to the Children’s Barnyard can see newborn chicks, piglets, lambs, ducklings and other farm animals.
Across a wide walkway from the chicks, a gang of ducklings huddled under a pair of brood lamps. Unless, that is, they were sliding down a ramp into their swimming pool.
The diversity of farm animals and the folks who wander in to see them make working in the Barnyard rewarding on multiple levels, said Malone, who plans to study animal science at Texas A&M.
“I get to experience stuff with kids, I get to know people and be around animals,” he said. “I want to be an FFA teacher when I grow up.”
Passing on agricultural knowledge is essential for the industry’s future, Darby said. But first the next generation of farmers have to be inspired to learn.
“That’s what this place is for,” Darby said. “For kids to see something they’ve never seen before.”