Last week my brother and I went to the county fair after work one evening. For us the fair has a strangely nostalgic feeling. Both of us were in 4-H for two years when we were little. I was eleven and skinny, with braids and glasses; he was nine and pudgy, with buck-teeth and red hair.
|This is Sally, whom I loved exceedingly.|
We raised two pigs named Sally and Sue during the summer and then showed them over the course of three days, before auctioning them off on the morning of the fourth. Both of us got two blue ribbons, one for good quality pig, and one for good quality showmanship. Both of us opened our first bank account afterwards, thinking with childlike innocence that $240 was a huge amount of money.
While we were showing the pigs, we slept at the fair in a tent. That may seem extreme, but we had to be up at 6 AM to claim a shower stall – not for ourselves, but for our pigs, who needed to be bathed, shaved, dried and oiled. We also had to treat their cuts with flaming red iodine, since pig-showing is not so much a show as a controlled chaos, interspersed with desperate intervention as fights break out between sows trying to establish dominance. With the same innocence which miscalculated the worth of money, we little children went into the ring, weighing about 100 pounds in our clothes, and supposed that we were perfectly safe as we wandered after our stubborn, ferocious, 250 pound pigs. Perhaps that’s why we deserved our blue ribbons for showmanship.
As you can imagine, with such memories, it’s no wonder the fair is a nostalgic place.
We hadn’t been able to go in a few years, but we seized the chance this year. It was very enjoyable, but I felt about 25 years older than I actually am, since I found myself saying things like, ‘The animal barns were a lot cleaner when we were in 4-H,’ or ‘Didn’t the exhibits use to be a lot more splendid?’ But in spite of complaining like a little old lady, there were many lovely things to see, and delicious things to eat (what’s the point of a fair if you can’t eat improbably delectable, unhealthy food?).
|I want to ride that camel...|
At one point, we were passing casually through the displays of heavy machinery, and we noticed signs for a petting zoo in the distance. Even well past childhood, I have an inordinate fondness for such things, so I dragged my long-suffering brother with me to investigate. I was glad we went. The zoo itself was mediocre, but someone else nearby had brought camels! I never expected to see camels at the North Idaho Fair. There was even a Bactrian one; I’ve seen dromedaries in zoos, but the Bactrian was a wonderful new experience.
That’s the real point of going to these huge community events and establishments, I think – experience.
I watched a tiny child of six or so, with a shining blonde head. She sat on the very tall camel’s back, waving with nervous pride at her parents as they snapped their cameras at her. The camel was completely blasé about the entire affair, but no doubt the little girl will always remember that she once sat on a his back at the fair. Perhaps that will be as dear to her as my own memory of proudly showing my pig, a big number pinned on my chest to help the judges identify me.
Later in the evening, another family strolled past while my brother and I were enjoying some kettle corn. The two children – a boy and girl – pulled at their parents’ arms and pointed at the marvelous, mysterious animals in the stalls ahead. ‘What’s that one, Mom?’ they cried. Of course, the creatures were nothing more than donkeys, but I suddenly shared the delight of a child who can still be stunned by the wonder of a donkey.
It must be delightful to be a parent, too, and rediscover with your child that donkeys are amazing after all.
|I love their patient faces!|
The theme of our fair this year was ‘Everything Under the Sun’ (hence the title of my post). The claim was perhaps a bit presumptuous, but to the eyes of a child, who knows. Perhaps each barn seems a new world where they can discover yet another race of miraculous beings. I remember how grand and monumental the draft horses seemed when I was twelve. One of the reasons I still appreciate those same horses is because of that recollection. I see the world through layers and layers of experience, and each one adds a new color and depth to my enjoyment.
It’s easy to think, ‘Oh, it’s childish to do such-and-such’ (visit the fair, or the zoo, or a park, etc.), but each new visit embroiders more splendid patterns upon old experience. Memory is one of the best elements of our humanity. We might as well embrace how it enhances even the simplest, most ordinary experiences. I think we’ll discover that enhancement can inspire a myriad emotions and ideas – the seeds of our inspirations.