Getting ready for the country fair

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(Host) Commentator Will Curtis says that it’s almost blue-ribbon time at the local country fair.

(Curtis) This is the time of year when families who are fortunate enough to live on a farm spend a good deal of time in the barn. Now that much of the field work is done, (the hay and feed are safely stored for the winter) it’s time to get ready for the country fairs! Not to speak of cattle breeders’ sales.

Young members of 4H have already picked out a handsome heifer or pair of young oxen they plan to show at the annual fair. Farmers who have a likely registered animal are giving it a lot of attention hoping for a good price at an upcoming breeders’ sale.

Coats are brushed until they shine, hooves are oiled, tails combed. Round and round the yard the animals are led, taught to stand quietly, head up, back straight.

Of course the owners have already spent months with the animals, accustoming them to handling and leading. Nothing is more humiliating than a balky heifer in a show ring. Young oxen have learned to push shoulders into small yokes and pull a load. And of course white shirts and trousers have to be checked for cleanliness, for white is always the fashion when showing cattle.

We’re fortunate in Vermont; there are still enough country fairs to go around, real country fairs, that is, with prize jellies and cucumbers, and the biggest imaginable pumpkins, and best of all, lots of animals!

We try to get to the Tunbridge World’s Fair every year. It used to be that our grandsons came with us but they’re off on their own adventures now, so we don’t have to wait hours while they whirled around above our heads on some death defying machine. Now we head right for the animals.

First, Jane, who loves hens, has to look at every Barred Rock and Buff Orpington, clucking and scratching in their cages. For myself, I had enough of hens when I worked on a chicken farm.

That done, we spend the rest of our time in the cattle sheds. And how it brings back memories of our farming days! That wonderful smell of healthy animals, hay and sawdust! We remember showing our own Mayflower Spring Beauty, one of our Jersey cows, a first year heifer, and winning a blue ribbon at the late, lamented Hartland Fair.

It was better than winning a lottery because we had bred and raised her ourselves; that’s something to be proud of! And we are always proud of and impressed by the young people at country fairs who lead about and care for their treasured animals.

There is a lot to be said for being raised on a farm.

Will Curtis of Woodstock, Vermont.

Will Curtis is an author and naturalist. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.

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