19 August, 2010

To be Fair...

Yesterday I went to the County Fair. I haven’t been to a local fair in more than 15 years and then ‘going to the fair’ meant ‘going to the fair, paying admission and trolling the grounds for other awkward tweenagers (whom you may or may not actually talk to) until you’d blown all your spending money and used your last quarter to call so-and-so’s mother to come pick you up’.

So what do you do at the fair when you’re now a childless 30-something? You take your father. And, for the first time since your head finally passed the yellow line granting you permission to ride to big-kid rides, you suspend your cynicism.

Dad and I are big fans of the animals, so that was our only true goal for the day. We caught the first Alaskan Racing Pigs show (our designated pig to root for, Yukon, came in last). Normally something like this would be an amusing thought—pigs running around a tiny track, but today standing in the crowd with dad and cheering on the red-shirted little oinker, I felt slightly transported.

We continued on into the poultry barn where we were greeted with free cookies and lemonade or coffee by the ladies of the local Granges. I don’t usually get very fired up over turkeys or chickens in pens (I blame my neighbor and her howling hens) and this was pretty much just that: a bunch of clucking and picking feathered things in wired cages. That was, until I saw the warming box filled with rows of numbered eggs.

I had especially loved the chick incubator at our local garden and feed store as a child and would spend my time crouched down by the tiny peepers while mom sought after the perfect hanging fuchsia for our front porch. In all of that time I had never actually seen a chick hatching. This warming box, with its rows of shelled little lives, was my chance. A few fluffed up chicks, looking slightly inebriated, staggered around the bottom, adjusting to the new brightness of their world. One lay with wet feathers and splayed legs next to its shell. I thought it was dead. Within minutes it was lifting its head and shifting its chicken-shoulders. I wanted to stay and watch while another worked itself out from the tiny opening in its capsule, but for all I knew that could take hours and I could feel the pull of other animals from the room next door. I would have to just imagine the stages in between.

I could give detailed accounts of petting the soft noses of the rabbits, watching small aggressive goats butt heads and curling my fingers into the oily-wool of docile sheep (I befriended one particular Shropshire who enjoyed a hearty head-scratch), but I fear my memories do more for me than the retelling would for you, my reader. I will say that if you’ve never run your hand slowly down the muscle-thick neck and across the soft nose of a prize winning steed, you should. It’s probably one of the most calming things in the world.

We exited the barns, washed our hands and settled on having lunch. Dad, in a case of disturbing irony, decided to have a lamb-steak sandwich.
A bit more walking around, a chance meeting with a friend and a lumberjack log rolling competition later it was time to go. I had to snag the requisite fried-food item on my way out (bits of fried dough rolled in sugar) and stop briefly to catch the last act of a clown show entitled ‘Jest in Time’. I normally find clowns off-putting and down-right scary, but this time there was a reclaiming of joy in the act of watching the painted faces run around the stage. I found myself laughing at their tongue-in-cheek humor and cheering for the poor volunteers pulled on stage to complete the performance. It was the perfect end to a day both from my past and indicative of my desire for a light-hearted future.