2022 Western Heritage Parade marshal Lafayette Fearn “Teeny” Swoope: Fostering a love of livestock

The parade marshal for the 2022 Western Heritage Parade is Lafayette Fearn “Teeny” Swoope (pronounced swope).

“He’s as unique as his name, and the sharpest guy I know,” said Bryan Galley. “He’s 95 and looks the same today as when I first met him.”

That was 50 years ago. Swoope was the county 4-H agent who bought Galley his first show calf. Galley was 10, and he’s been raising livestock ever since.

Swoope also worked with Galley’s daughter, Claire. She described him as an expert in animal husbandry, an invaluable resource and a family friend who just happens to be a pretty great cook.

Swoope is a thin man, bald since he was in his 20s, and he never meets a stranger, according to Galley, who attributes many of his mentor’s traits to his upbringing.

“I grew up out in the woods on Tibbee Creek in Lowndes County, Mississippi. That’s in Columbus,” he said with his distinctive drawl. “I was one of 14 children and had nine brothers and four sisters.”

At 15, he worked on family land and one of the largest registered angus ranches in Mississippi until he was drafted in 1951.

Swoope is known for his keen sense of ability to evaluate livestock. He also sees potential in people and recognized early on the value of livestock projects as educational tools for the development of children.

Lauren Brown calls him “her adopted grandpa.” She is in her 30s and met him for the first time showing sheep. Her daughter, Emma Claire, won grand champion last week.

“The bond between those two is pretty special,” Brown said. “My love for livestock comes from him. He’s just a good person and I’ve never seen him turn down a kid that’s come to him for advice. He is truly amazing.”

“To this day, he makes a difference in the lives of the people he meets,” Galley said. “He just has that ability, and sometimes I don’t even think he knows it.”

Though parents of the 4-H club members sent home with a box of the stuff to sell might be hesitant to applaud the accomplishment, Swoope was the first in Calcasieu Parish to conduct a “World’s Finest Chocolate” fundraiser, still going strong today. Those same parents are 100 percent appreciative of his efforts to see the SW District Livestock Show scholarship fund grow from $5,000 to $50,000 annually during his work with the group.

Swoope joined the Cooperative Extension Service in 1957 as an assistant county agent in Caldwell Parish. In 1958, he transferred to East Carroll parish, then became a county agent in Calcasieu Parish in 1967 until his retirement in 1989. He became the Southwest District Fat Stock Show Manager in 1977. He has served as a volunteer leader in the livestock program in Calcasieu Parish since his retirement and is a board member of the Southwest District Livestock Show, Inc.

He was recognized with the Louisiana County Agricultural Agent’s Award in 1989 and named Honorary Sales Chairman for the Calcasieu Parish Jr. Livestock Show & Sale in 1991 for his 32 years of service to 4-H and FFA youth.

His excellent physical health is maintained with a simple early morning fitness routine —push ups and jogging — until his knees gave him some problems.

“Up until about a month ago, he was still riding his bicycle an hour a day,” Galley said.

He has had to be with his wife, who has experienced declining health for the last 11 years.

“When he retired in 1998, we all wondered what we could get Mr. Swoope,” said Jerry Whatley. “We found out he had never had a bicycle and so we bought one for him and one for his wife.”

Whatley, age 71, is a retired agricultural extension agent after 37.5 years. He met Swoope when he was 8 years old. He lived in Northeast Louisiana where Swoope started his career.

“I remembered trailing after him. I remember exactly where he was standing and where I was when he told me my lamb had to have fresh water, every day, every day. When I was older — and we didn’t have cars and trucks like kids do now — he took us to the district livestock shows.”

When Swoope wore out his first bicycle, his children bought him a second.

“I guess I started exercising because I had small man’s syndrome,” he said with a chuckle. “I thought it was important to be big and tough. Now I guess I exercise because I feel this long life is a blessing and it’s important not to stop. You’ve got to keep going.”

Swoope certainly looked rugged and larger than life sitting on the back of his legendary longhorn steer with the bright yellow tennis balls cushioning the tips of its horns.

“Well, there’s a story behind that,” he said.

Swoope’s brother had a 5-year-old longhorn calf. He wanted it broken so that his six-foot-three-inch son, a tight end on the football team could ride him. He had a plan to run a picture with his son riding on it, with a headline that said, longhorn steer for sale, football player goes with him. His brother hoped his son would get a football scholarship. Selling the longhorn to pay for college was plan B. However, the nephew got an appointment to the military academy.

“Being the parade marshal for an event that celebrates youth and livestock is one of the greatest honors I could have,” Swoope said. “I’ll be there with bells, boots, hat and a big ol’ smile,” he said.

The Western Heritage Parade begins at the corner of LaGrange and Patrick Street, travels west on LaGrange to Ryan Street, and then south on Ryan Street to McNeese Stadium.

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