I tried writing this post before, but at the time, well, it felt contrived. Instead, I reminisced about bringing Tatter Magoo (my horse at the time) to our local fair.
The effort helped me see and understand why the local county fair resonates so deeply—its sights, sounds, smells—provide a brief window back to my early adolescence. I remember a long-ago boy crush—him friendly, tall, all arms and legs and wide smiles. Childhood friends—though now adults and many with kids of their own—who remain perpetual adolescents to me.
Time passes. My children exhibited projects at this year’s event (!)–but the kids, the animals, and the local folks somehow remain the same.
The fair celebrates the relationships betweens kids and their animals.
Central to the fair are the 4-Hers and their animals. Cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens, horses, ponies and goats attend the fair; the exhibitor shows the animal in its respective class, a class appropriate for both the exhibitor and the animal.
You can’t help but root for the participant (and even more so for the underdog!) as she brings her animal (chicken, rabbit, goat, steer—insert the animal of your choice here) before the judge. Usually the presentation represents the culmination of a season’s worth of work, both in feeding, conditioning, and handling the animal prior to the event; and then, turning out the animal (4-H speak for beautifying) on show day.
Sometimes the animal cooperates and sometimes not. Sometimes a kid is dragged around the ring by a spooked steer, the steer outweighing the exhibitor by at least 300 pounds. You hide the sympathetic smile as he regains control of the animal and furiously fights the welling tears. Sometimes the horse refuses to trot at the appropriate speed in the pleasure class.
Sometimes the animal and exhibitor perform perfectly.
It’s local at its best.
It’s a community event that draws folks from the area at large. You run into folks you haven’t seen in a while. You see old men competing in a tractor pull—though it’s an event that seems fairly loose its competitive structure. You see kids 7 and under attach themselves to a bewildered sheep—mutton-busting—and hang on for dear life. You see old men shooting the breeze. You see young kids reach small hands toward soft, curious animal noses.
At the fair, I remember a long-ago me.
I always get a touch introspective and maybe even slightly melancholy as the fair comes and goes. It signals the end of our short, short northern summer. Even more, as I consider and remember the fair I remember a long-ago me. Me at twelve or thirteen years old. A sweet, uncertain, and somewhat awkward girl. It’s strange too, because I remember her—hazily—but mostly I’ve forgotten her.
Later at the fair, I met a 10 year old girl. She was tall—all arms and legs—and friendly with a wide smile. Though I’d never met her before, I recognized her amiable face and remembered a boy and a long-ago girl who liked him.
Sometimes it’s nice to remember.