Ecker Hill student wins essay contest
December 31, 2007
Ecker Hill International Middle School sixth-grade language arts teacher Nancy Schulthess taught her student, Jessica Felter, to always look at both sides of an issue. Felter took that advice to heart when she wrote an essay for a contest about what ‘peace on Earth and goodwill to mankind’ means.
Felter saw the ad for the contest on KSL online. Palomino Valley Meadows Ranch, a 40-acre ranch in New Harmony, Utah, sponsored it. The prize for the best essay was an eight-month-old registered quarter horse palomino filly.
"I’ve always wanted a horse to grow up with and be there with me from the beginning," Felter said. "I love palominos. Their colors blend together and look like a beach with the tail and mane being all white like foam and the body is a golden color like the sand."
Felter has had horses ever since she was six years old. "We rescue horses that are starved or abused or going to be slaughtered," Julie Felter, Jessica’s mother, said. The Felter family has saved about 20 horses over the past six years.
Jessica Felter said she loves horses because they are so trusting of people. "An owner can abuse and beat them down, and yet, when they come to a new owner, they can trust again," she said. "They just have this great spot in their hearts for forgiveness."
At their home, the Felters have two rescued horses and a rescued pony along with the new palomino.
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Sharon Meadows, owner of the ranch and creator of the contest, said that Jessica Felter’s essay stood out from the others. The idea for the contest came to Meadows, who is a retired teacher, in early November.
"I was irritated with the way Christmas was being treated as a major commercial thing," she said. "I wanted to find a way for people to think about what Christmas was really about.
Meadows looked to the New Testament of the Bible for inspiration and came across a section of Luke about "Peace on Earth, goodwill to mankind. "I wanted to have people think about that phrase and what it means to them," she said. The deadline for the contest was Dec. 20.
"When the 20th came along, I had quite a number of essays that people had sent me," Meadows said. "I just kept going back to and reading Jessica’s essay. I was becoming more sure that that was the one I wanted to recognize.
"When it came time to make a decision, there were a lot that were beautifully written, but Jessica’s presented both sides of the story."
Meadows thought Felter’s essay was not indicative of someone her age. "She did a really good job of presenting a mature attitude about something you would think an 11 year old wouldn’t come up with," she said. "I thought: ‘this girl is something else.’"
Jessica Felter was sitting on the couch reading with her dog when she got the call from Meadows. "I was jumping up and down and screaming when I found out," she said. "I didn’t think I’d win. I thought there would be a better writer than me to enter."
In Felter’s essay, she wrote about how perhaps total peace on earth might not be the best solution. "I thought if there was peace on earth, there’d be no wars, which would be good, but then you wouldn’t have fights with your friends either, which would be bad because usually after you fight with a friend and then make up, your bond is stronger," she said.
On Saturday, Dec. 22, the Felters went to New Harmony to pick up the filly. "It was really cool when I saw her for the first time. I thought she was so pretty," Jessica Felter said. Felter named the filly Emma.
Meadows said she was concerned about how Felter and the filly would do together. "The horse hadn’t been trained yet. But when the family came down to see the filly, Jessica walked right into where she was and the two seemed to click immediately," Meadows said, "which was quite unusual because fillies don’t usually take to people that quickly."
It wasn’t quite that easy according to Felter. "Well, I thought that she liked me, but you have to go slow," she said. "Foals are really jumpy and with her never being handled before, that just made it multiplied."
Felter used an old Indian technique of breathing from her mouth into Emma’s nose to help calm the filly down.
Felter said they got Emma halter broken in about 20 minutes. Being halter broken means the horse can wear a halter, which goes around a horse’s head, and be led around by it. "Usually, the first time you put a halter on a horse it takes a couple of days to break them," she said.
It took about 45 minutes to get Emma into the Felter’s trailer. "This was not something the horse had done before, but you could tell she had confidence in Jessica," Meadows said. "It was amazing. Horses are not usually that friendly to trailers, especially young ones like that."
Now that Emma is home with Felter, the two are together all the time. "I go down there three times a day to feed her and I bring her water a lot because I have to make sure it doesn’t freeze," she said. "I brush and groom her all the time to help her get used to my touch. She’s still skittish, but she’s getting better and more trusting of us."
Emma comes from good bloodlines, according to Julie Felter. "They are known for being really gentle," she said.
Felter entered Emma’s stall to feed her lunch. She approached slowly, taking small steps toward the small tan filly. The horse jumped slightly when Felter put her halter on, but soon the two were side-by-side with Felter stroking her mane and nuzzling her face next to Emma’s. Felter said she hopes to train Emma to compete once the filly is older.
Meadows said she couldn’t believe how wonderfully the contest worked out. She had never done anything like this before. "It certainly made an impression on me, and I hope it made an impression on the people who wrote essays as well," she said.
This experience has made Meadows want to start a horse club again like the one she had in California before she moved to Utah.
Her horse club was for children who wanted to learn how to ride and take care of a horse. The club would arrange for the child to have semi-ownership of a horse with two or three other people and they would all share the responsibility of taking care of it at different times on different days.
Meadows plans to thank each person who entered the contest with letters "to tell them how special what they did was to me and that I appreciated what they wrote." She had about 20 people enter the contest, five of which were under 18 years old.
Peace on Earth and Good Will To Mankind
If there was a way to have total peace on Earth I would do it. Wouldn’t we all? To have peace on Earth would mean we would have far less deaths. We would have no heartbreak over a member of our family that is in the service for we would have no army for them to go to. It would mean that every country, big or small, could contribute to the better of the world. If a country needed help moving along in a particularly tough year, they would have a shoulder to lean on. It would also mean that you would have no neighbors to feud with. It would mean that we would have no one to steal our things. There would be no murders because there is no motive. Life would be better right?
Life would be better depending on what kind of person you are. I personally would not like that kind of life. There would be no arguing so there would be nothing to talk about. The war does affect our whole world but makes a reason to be prepared. The annoying neighbors allow you to have something to think about during the day. The fighting friends would make it so that if everything worked out and you were friends again it would make your bond that much stronger. If there was total peace on Earth there would be nothing to talk about. Besides, the bad things just make the good things in life that much sweeter.
However, I do believe in Good Will to Mankind. To me, it means that as long as man’s intention is good and for the better of the Earth, God will help us out. If you wish to harm an animal, God will allow it but punish you afterward. If you pick up litter to keep our planet clean, God will reward you. It means that if you have a good intention, things will look up, as long as you keep doing the right thing.