This likely will not come as a shock to you, but I didn’t participate in the FFA when I was in high school.
It’s not that I had anything against the FFA, or agriculture in general. It just wasn’t my thing.
Then again, maybe a stint in the FFA would have aided me in my longstanding crusade to be a Greenwood County soil commissioner. The FFA has a soil judging component, after all.
As it is, the best I can do is look at the soil and say “Yep, that’s soil right there.”
Also, the FFA kids had to do dairy judging. I don’t even like milk. Call me when they have Coca-Cola judging.
Most of all, I never got involved with FFA because they had to rock those corduroy jackets. The rubbing sound corduroy makes drives me crazy.
Despite all of this, on Thursday night I found myself enjoying a nice chicken dinner at Abbeville High School during its annual year-end FFA banquet. It was my first time attending the banquet, but it was for a good reason. It was a chance to show respect for someone who has become a friend.

Fred Raines, Abbeville High’s longtime agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, is retiring after 33 years. He taught for five years in Calhoun Falls, then 28 years in Abbeville. Thursday’s banquet was his last as a teacher.
The banquet itself was a first-class affair, with the FFA students receiving their various pins and certificates. I was especially impressed by the officers who were called upon to preside over the proceedings, especially young Jacob Hedden, who was tasked with reciting the FFA’s long, winding creed.
It was of note that the make-up of the kids in FFA seemingly has changed a bit in the nearly 20 years since I was in high school. Back then it was mostly — not exclusively, but mostly — a white male activity. Now, it’s a bit more diverse. It was nice to see a great many young ladies involved, as well as some black students.
Everyone says the kids today are a bunch of wild hellions. That was not the case with the young men and women who were involved in Thursday’s FFA banquet. These were bright, well-mannered, down-to-earth kids.
While the students’ behavior and conduct at the ceremony was doubtless a product of their upbringing, it also was a reflection of Raines and the manner in which he has conducted business the past three decades.

I’VE KNOWN FRED RAINES for many years. My wife and I have been close friends with his daughters for a long time and one of my dearest friends actually married his youngest daughter.
They are like extended family, in a sense.
That said, it’s interesting how things change, over time.
When I was in high school, I used to hang out at the Raines’ house all the time. A lot of kids did, as the Raines’ had three daughters, each separated by just a couple of years in age. There were always kids coming and going and hanging out.
Back in those days, Fred -- Mr. Raines as I called him then, and still do -- and I didn’t really connect. I wasn’t an FFA kid. Agriculture just wasn’t something I was interested in. I was on the basketball team and listened to a lot of rap music and was always trying to make a joke.
But, things changed as the years went along. My wife and I remained friends with his daughters, and Fred and I found common ground. Whenever my wife and I stop by the Raines’ picturesque farm house during the holidays, Fred and I inevitably end up having lively discussions about football or basketball or current events. He’ll go outside and smoke his pipe and we’ll have a few laughs.
We even exchange gifts each Christmas. He gave me several Abbeville Panther paintings through the years, though my favorite gift from him was a great big pack of peppered bacon.
I like bacon.
So, I wanted to make sure I attended Thursday night’s FFA banquet, Fred’s final such banquet as a teacher. It was a wonderful occasion. He even posed for a “selfie” photo with me. He claimed it was his first selfie. I’m inclined to believe him.
Thirty-three years as a teacher. That’s a lifetime.
A lifetime of helping young people, teaching them a unique subject matter, schooling them in the wonders of the earth and showing them how to make use of what the Lord has provided us in the land and in wildlife and beyond.
Fred received a standing ovation at the end of Thursday’s banquet. It was an ovation well-earned.
There are some people who, through their very association with an organization, raise the level of quality and integrity within that organization. That was the case with Fred Raines and the FFA in Abbeville.
I wish him all the best in retirement.

Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-5650; email You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.