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Raising Funds with Rocky Mountain 'Oysters'

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In the small rural community of Westcliffe, Colo., the local chapter of Future Farmers of America raises money with an annual dinner featuring a ranching specialty: Rocky Mountain oysters. As Shanna Lewis of member station KRCC reports, it's not a treat for the squeamish.


City kids often hold car washes or candy sales to raise money for high school activities. But some rural communities have found other avenues for commerce. In Westcliffe, Colorado, the local high school, FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, serves a special delicacy.

From member station KRCC, Shanna Lewis reports.

SHANNA LEWIS reporting:

Agriculture teacher Tom Flowers' workshop is hot and smoky, but not from the welding that usually goes on in here.

Mr. TOM FLOWERS (Teacher, FFA High School): Well, the sound that you just heard is the sound of cooking Rocky Mountain oysters to absolute perfection.

LEWIS: What is a Rocky Mountain oyster, anyway?

Mr. FLOWERS: That would be a peeled and sliced testicle from a bull or calves. We use bull fries because they're bigger. And we slice them on a meat slicer. But that's what it is in a nutshell, so to speak.

Ms. ASHTON SHULTZ(ph) (Student, FFA High School): He just said cut them and skin them. And that's what we did.

(Soundbite of chuckling)

Ms. SCHULTZ: And they were frozen, so it was pretty cold.

LEWIS: It's Ashton Shultz's first year in FFA.

Ms. SCHULTZ: There were three of us girls that did it. We couldn't get the guys to help us. They were too scared.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SCHULTZ: They said it was unnatural.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEWIS: Adults help too. Becky Manly has a unique perspective, after two hours of dipping and breading oysters.

Ms. BECKY MANLY (Resident): They're soft and slimy, very nice.

LEWIS: Carl Musgrave(ph) is working just one of five deep fryers.

Mr. CARL MUSGRAVE (Resident): I fried up a couple, well, probably three or four hundred so far.

LEWIS: Altogether, they'll fry up close to 3,000 oysters this afternoon. No wonder they call it the Annual Testicle Festival.

Unidentified Man #1: You guys want some more oysters?

LEWIS: Over in the school multi-purpose room, where the fundraising dinner is served, they also offer teriyaki chicken for the squeamish. The crowd of over 100 is definitely divided between those who eat Rocky Mountain oysters and those who don't.

Unidentified Man #2: I had the Rocky Mountain oysters.

LEWIS: How were they?

Unidentified Man #2: Great!

LEWIS: All right.

Unidentified Man #2: I'm hoping they're going to bring some more around.

Unidentified Man #3: As you may see, I don't have any on my plate.

Unidentified Woman: They're wonderful. It's an acquired taste.

Unidentified Man #4: I'm golfing today.

(Soundbite of chuckling)

Unidentified Man #4: When I went through the line, I told them I'll just take a bucket of balls.

LEWIS: During dinner, many folks perused the evening sale catalog. The 24 FFA members are offering eight hours of labor to the highest bidder.

Unidentified Man #4: And that one, Wesley Mars, Junior.

LEWIS: The kids, 50 in their dark blue and gold FFA jackets, wait nervously for their turn on the block. Out in the audience, Jeff Holmberg(ph) plans to bid for some good kid labor.

Mr. JEFF HOLMBERG (Resident): I'll have them move some rocks around. Maybe clean out the donkey shed. Let's just put it this way. Whatever they have to do at the end of the day, they'd have to take a shower before they went to bed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEWIS: This year, the Custer County FFA Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry and Member Sale raised over $6,000. They'll use the money for community service projects, and to take the kids to the National FFA Convention.

For NPR News, I'm Shanna Lewis in Westcliffe, Colorado.

(Soundbite of cheering and clapping)

SIMON: Just some celery, please, at 22 minutes before the hour.

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