The sun is hot, the air is cool, wild asters are blooming in the verge, the wheel of the year clicks from ‘summer’ to ‘fall’ and we go to the fair again, you and I. It’s not always the same fair – but all fairs are the same.
I take pictures of cattle, sheep, and piglets, and you eat a turkey leg. We watch 4-H kids lead their four-legged charges around in a ring. We look at the prize vegetables. We look at home improvement items and handmade crafts. We share a paper plate of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar. I make you look too long at chickens, ducks and geese. You make me look too long at tractors, antique farm machinery and men sawing logs.
This year, we watched a woman throw a double-headed axe at a target made from a circle of sawn wood a couple of feet thick. It spun in the air. Twice it bounced off the target, ugh; the third time it wedged deep into the wood, yes! That was something new.
A man from our town had a two-seat antique mechanized celery transplanter on display. “When farming first became mechanized, I guess farmers had to become mechanics too,” I realized, out loud.
We watch cattle or large horses in pairs strain against their harnesses to pull a sledge piled with granite blocks. We watch men in faded ball caps tap, smack and sometimes whip the oxen on their noses, backs and rumps to get them to move the way they want.
It seems hard for the oxen to understand what they’re supposed to do, and hard for the men to get them to do it. The beasts are yoked together but they don’t always pull in the same direction at the same time. The men flail with sticks. The oxen lurch – hopefully forward, hopefully at the same time.
“This is a living, annual, advertisement for how great it is to have tractors and trucks now,” I say. You stop eating the turkey leg and nod yes.
The horses seem to understand pulling, and humans, a little better.
Draft horse at the fair
You like to be able to put a key in something metal and mechanical and make it go. I like things that are alive. Both require care and tending, in different ways.
We have raised two daughters, flown airplanes, written stories, owned cars, trucks, a tractor, a boat, houses, dogs, cats, fish. Now we have 7 chickens and they have just started laying eggs. We have planted trees that are now 5 or 10 times taller than we are. We have planted and picked every kind of garden vegetable and berry fruit that would grow here and that we wanted to eat.
Once a year we travel two-score miles or so to visit and celebrate effort and abundance. And then we go home to our own work.