Farms are very Southern. Of course, right? It was first industry in the South after all. Cotton, tobacco, cows, chickens and the like. But in parts of the mountain South, like where I grew up, that is not the case. The mountains are too steep and there is just too little flat land. Thus the economic dependence on coal mining and timber. So, this Southern Girl does not have a lot (any) experience with farms, crops or farm animals other than visits to my Auntie A’s animal farm in Central Virginia (cows, sheep, chickens and horses).
This ignorance of farm animals is what drew me to the Allen County Fair Grounds for the opening night if the Allen County Fair and Rodeo. That and, well, cowboys.
Yes, yes, I have been a county fair. My home county has a fair. Except there is not a commercial chicken competition or llama tent. Instead there is a car show, quilt competition, and coal tent. See the difference?
I arrived at the fair and was shocked that all the animals competing were right there under tents or in shell buildings. I was like a little kid. I immediately went to the llama tent where I met and had my picture made with a llama. The llamas were in fenced in areas under the tent with fans blowing on them – it was over 90 with a head index of 105 – and I am sure they appreciated it. There were these little girls, 10 and 12 or so that were handling them like professionals, of course, they had been doing this all their little lives. They were sweet to let me pet their competition llama.
Next was the poultry tent. Ducks, turkeys, and chickens (oh my!) all over the place. I happened into the tent during the commercial chicken competition. This involved a group of folks standing around a gentleman in a white lab coat. The lab coated gentlemen inspected the chickens two at a time including turning them upside down. I notice that that all the competitors held their chickens on one arm and the birds were very peaceful. The birds were so still they almost seemed like statues. I made that comment to a lady standing next to me and she informed me that the reason the birds were so still and comfortable was because of the technique used to carry them. I was intrigued.
After the competition I followed a competitor, Daniel, and his mom, he was no more than 16, back to the cage area and asked if he could teach me how to hold a chicken. He very kindly agreed but suggested we might use a smaller chicken. Turns out it is easier to learn on smaller birds = a starter chicken, if you will. Daniel pulled out this little hen and gave me directions, like a seasoned teacher. You put the hens feet between your pointer and middle finger and middle finger and ring finger. Then the hen breast rests on your forearm with the head pointed toward your elbow. If the chicken starts to get agitated and flap its wings you turn it upside down by its feet and point its head toward the floor. He demonstrated this and it worked like a charm. Daniel is an excellent teacher.
It was my turn. Surprisingly, it went smoothly and the chicken rested right on my arm like it was at home. It was exciting. So much so that I insisted on a picture to prove it. Chickens are cooler than you think.
I was sharing my chicken story with Jon from church, he and his wife are also Appalachian Refugees in FW, and he noted that it is interesting that I had to leave the mountains to come to the big city (FW is about 250,000) to learn how to hold a chicken. Life is funny.
Speaking of cool chickens. I have been personally familiar with 3 chickens in my life. One Valentine’s Day my Daddy acquired three chickens as a gift for Mommy. She (actually) likes to hear a rooster crow in the morning. Well, in order to get a rooster to stay around you have to bring along some hens. Dudes will be dudes. So, these birds needed names. My Parents let my oldest niece, we shall call her Princess, name the chickens. So, we got Power Rangers – Aisha 1, Aisha 2, and Billy. Sadly, the Aishas did not last long. But Billy was around for about 5 years or so. He ate out of our hands, knew when it was feeding time, and followed us around. He became a pet and we enjoyed his company. Unfortunately, he became restless (remember the ladies are gone now) and started roosting on the neighbors car and crowing at all hours of the day. So, Billy had to go. He is now living happily (we hope) somewhere else. See, chickens are cool and that is the closest to farming that we ever got unless you count my mom’s small vegetable garden in the back yard flower bed.
Back to the fair, next were the cow and swine buildings. The pigs and cows were hot. Did you know that pigs have no sweat glands? That is just one fun fact that I learned at the fair. Thankfully, they have great owners who took them regularly for hose downs with water and placed fans strategically around them to ensure a breeze. They all seemed okay with it. The cows seemed to eat a lot and the pigs were mostly asleep. They were super cute. I don’t know what it is but farm animals are adorable in a gross sort of way.
The fair also offered plenty of tasty fair food, including the requisite buffet of fried offerings. I opted for popcorn and a water.
There were horses and lots of them. The competitors had decorated their horses stalls and each stall had a grouping of chairs sitting outside of it. It looked as though the competitors and their families enjoyed the ability to sit and visit with other like-minded animals lovers as much as they did competing. It is a really family oriented operation.
It was super fun to see and be around all the animals. It was exciting to see young kids and adults developing professional (farming, livestock management, etc) and personal skills (communication and leadership skills) through these competitions. The 4-H is a great thing. I have a whole new respect for it.
I will most certainly go back to the fair. It was good, clean family fun.