March 27, 2016
Each fall we take time off and head to the Central Washington Fair. Less than an hour from the farm, it is a great place to have a family day. There is a little something for everyone. You cannot go to the fair and not meet a neighbor or two. And we’re always sure to take any visiting friends; it is a nice way to get an overview of the farming and ranching in the county, all in one place.
If nothing else, you’ll get your daily walk in at the fair. From barns to the commercial building, we make our way from one end to the other. All the while being astonished by how gifted our county people are. Not far into the walk and it soon becomes clear folk across the county have many interests and they learn them well. A favorite of mine is the quilting barn. Quilting is something I have no interest in learning or taking up, but you have to give it to quilters. Quilts are where art, mathematics, and skill combine to expose just how wonderful and detailed our imagination is. Quilting is also one of those crafts which bring the elderly and the young together. Hanging from walls is the most carefully stitched quilt of an arthritic elder next to the first quilt of young smooth faced girl. Quilting is certainly family-neighborly art.
It isn’t a fair without visiting the canned goods barn. Just as artful as quilting it is good to know canning is making something of a comeback these days. I hope to trend continues to increase and there is some evidence of that in the barn. Bottles of pears, peaches, rhubarb, apples, strawberries, string beans, peas, and corn line one shelf after another. 4-H and FFA Youth, as you might expect, have their jams and preserves on display for folk to wonder over. Yet there are also jars from children and youth who are not in an organization. It might be conjecture, but I believe more grandparents are finding canning with their grandchildren a time to expose them to the wonders of good food and good storytelling. Whether it is prepping beans or slicing peaches or water bathing, canning is a time to tell the old stories and develop a few for tomorrow.
We are never at the fair too long before we make our way to the dairy booth. There isn’t much to see there—the cows are out in the barn, but you can buy yourself an ice cream cone and a fair isn’t a fair without ice cream. With a cone in hand, we head over to the animal barns. Sure it sounds trite, but life doesn’t get any better than an ice cream cone on a warm day and considering a hog’s conformation.
Where the quilting and canning barns are about handmade art, the animal barns are about life art. This is where those who have a love for animals have made the care and treatment of animals an artful practice. I can’t help but look at the hay folk have next to their stalls and inspect them for leaf and weeds and how the bale was put up, but I guess that goes with the territory if you raise a little hay. I enjoy the hog and cattle most. Belinda and I share an appreciation for the sheep and goat barns. But it is the horse barn that Belinda gives the blue ribbon.
We would be a better people if we paid a little more attention to horses. At the least, we would understand our ancestors a little better. Only a lifetime ago, and a few of these folk are still alive, our economy was horse based. You did not go anywhere without a horse. Even the UPS’s and FedX’s of the day delivered by horse. Give it much thought and you realize horses were that which tied rural and urban life together. When all transportation is by horse, the urban folk are dependent of rural folk to raise horses and hay, on which the rural economy depends.
The animal barns give an idea of how disconnected rural and urban have become. It is always a little dismaying when we walk by and hear folk say something along the lines of “why would anyone ever go in there!?” I figure the comment is based on smell, yet there is nothing cleaner, nothing less smelly, than a fair barn. I wonder though, if the disconnection rural-urban disconnection is so great, that subconsciously folk no longer want to know where their food comes from. Perhaps there is a fear that should they look an animal in the eye they simply could not leave the fair and go to, say, McDonalds or The Outback. Alternatively, perhaps, it is sorta around the smell, and maybe it isn’t the eye to eye contact they fear, but what is going on at the other end.
Now honestly, and yes it is just me, there is a little entertainment to be had when non-animal folk walk down the barn aisle’s. Walking by a cow just as they decide to poop can be startling to someone who isn’t used to it. Even more so, when, like people, animals who are in an unfamiliar space eating food and water which is a little different than their everyday, have a poop consistency more along the lines of a milkshake than that of heavy pudding You can be a couple feet away and still get nailed or at least splashed on. Then there are the horses. When they decide to pee you would think someone turned on a small firehose—males and females—and you surely want to be out of the splash zone. When you’re not use to such poop and pee, even if the barns are clean and kept, makes for some interesting faces and reactions. Okay, your right, I get my entertainment in weird places.
After the barns, we walk by those old single-cylinder engines. I like that single put-put they make and enjoy how much their owners baby these engines throughout the fair. We finish up by heading into the commercial building. This is also the time the kids, who are old enough to be on their own, split off to head for the rides. While they might have some interest in the venders and watching someone sell a chopper by making a bowl of salsa, the take precedence. So, they hit the rides that take right up to the edge of vomiting (Of course some do, which is even more reason for me not to be near a circling ride that allow hundreds of other to enjoy a teenagers upset stomach as well.). While we walk through a building where we are amazed how good people are at selling goods—sometimes a bill of goods, like knives, solar panels, mops, taffy, wallets, a political party, buildings, blenders, a hat from Mexico, religion.
Once we leave the commercial building we are done for the day. Then is a good time to get another ice cream cone, sit down, wait for those who went off to the rides, and watch folk eat elephant ears, deep-fried Snicker Bars, and watch daylight slip to evening.