Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fair, II

When I was little, the county fair was all about the 4-H projects and living with the livestock during the first week. We saw some of that on Tuesday, and watching the pig judging brought me into the WayBack Machine for sure. Just looking at all those kids, filthy in their white jeans and button-down shirts (who? who had the bright idea to put farming kids in all white?) and passing the day sitting on their tack boxes, playing cards. Oh, gosh. Yes, I remember it quite clearly...I was thrilled that all four kids wanted to look at all the animals, and were so interested in the judging!

When I got older, in my teen years, the county fair was all about seeing, and being seen. You worked at the fair, because your friends did, and packs of girls roamed, pretending not to look at packs of boys, who roamed, pretending not to look at you. I'm exhausted just typing about it.

Now, as an adult, the county fair is all about Charlotte's Web. That is the experience I'm looking for when I go, and it always delivers. The quilts and flower arrangements; the art and fiber projects with the big ribbons (Best in Class is my favorite!); the jars of jam and fondant shaped into landscape scenes; the pig and puppy races, the amateur dance and song routines; I could just swoon!

And this whole day at the fair reminded me of something I had written on my other blog, so I am re-posting it here. It was originally written in March, 2006, but the story hasn't changed in the past 3 years, so here we go.

Tommy was asking me where chicken nuggets come from.

T: Where do these come from?
M: Chickens.
T: But, where do they come from?
M: They come from chickens.
T: What does that mean ~ chickens?
M: It means "chickens", like the big red hen in that song ~ bock bock.
T: How do the chickens grow them?
M: No, they come from chickens, on a farm. They used to be chickens. [If I could have brought myself to use the words, "We kill chickens", this would have been a much easier conversation.]
T: They grow on trees?
M: No! They really are chickens. Those nuggets used to be chickens! They are animals! Animals! From the farm!
T: [thoughtful] No. No, that doesn't make sense.

Fine. I remember when I first found out that food was animals, and I stopped eating meat for 6 years. When I was little I lived on a farm and belonged to 4-H but it was a disaster because I always got so attached to my animals. My dad finally put an end to the whole debacle the year I had to sell my lamb, Jesse, at the county fair auction, which ended with me crying so hard that my nose bled and I didn't sleep for 3 whole days. I still won't eat lamb. I don't care, y'all. It messed me up.

I'm mostly over it, but there are still some things I just won't eat ~ veal and lamb come to mind immediately, and I didn't eat any pork whatsoever until I was about 22. That's because of a pig named Moses. I went off all beef for 2 years after I met a cow named Mister Pibb. And, during one bleak period, I stopped eating chicken. That only lasted 3 months, but it was rough. I eat a metric ton of chicken per month, but one summer I was staying at my cousin's house. They lived on a farm in Santa Rosa, but it was way more "farm-y" than our farm. We kept chickens for eggs, goats as pets, and horses to ride. My cousin's family road horses, and collected eggs, but they also raised animals to eat. I mean, they would raise them, some guy would come out and slaughter them, right there in the yard. Weird.

So, they had this one chicken, he didn't have a name. (She? meh) That chicken loved me. Every day I would go out to their little pen and that chicken would perch on my arm while I took care of the chores. Then I'd sit and talk to it while carelessly sprinkling little corn and meal around and it was a nice way to spend some time, barefoot in the chicken yard, baking in the summer sun. My uncle (who was mean, I mean it, but we loved him to death) decided I needed to learn a lesson about getting too attached to farm animals. He thought my parents were soft on me when they didn't make me eat Jesse. I know. Anyway, he chopped my chicken's head off and made me pluck him. I cried the whole time.

It seems to me that so many of my farming memories involve crying! Isn't that strange? I mean, considering how very much I want a wee little farm? Tommy and I went for a walk last night, and we were dream-dream-dreaming about what animals we would have on our farm ("Do you think we'll need a barn, Mommy?" and "Oh, yes! Definitely a barn!"). I guess it would be more of a 'gentleman's farm', because I can tell you right now that if I had been in charge of Jesse's fate, I'd now be the proud owner of the oldest living sheep on the planet.


  1. I vividly remember the moment I made the connection that meat came from animals. Oh my. Need to go and find some medication now.

  2. You should come down for our fair in mid to late August. A WHOLE room devoted to wool, yarn and things made from wool yarn. There is a fleece auction on the last day with dozens of whole fleeces for sale!!!!!

  3. OK Mia I am with you, a no killing farm. My husband used to tell me if we had a farm it would be more like an "old age home" for farm animals. No disrespect for Jesse but I love Leg Of Lamb and he (my husband) also used to say we would have three legged lambs. I can't believe your uncle would do such a cruel thing.