Instead, from Thursday through Sunday the four of us more or less lived in a 10 foot by 10 foot corner of one of the cow barns at the Cornish Fair.
Our kids have been helping take care of Cedar Mountain Farm's Jersey cows since they were 5 and 8. And this year our younger daughter went so far as to become a member of 4-H and bring a young calf and a year-old heifer to the fair. Over the course of four days she showed her animals six different times, being judged variously on the quality of the cows and the quality of her care and handling of them. She won a few ribbons, made a few friends, learned a lot, and declared the whole event one of the best things to ever happen in her life. The rest of us played supporting parts, ate a year's worth of french fries and ice cream, and cheered her on.
A few impressions stand out in my mind as memories of the whole experience:
- Watching a toddler in a stroller connect the dots between the udder of a giant Holstein cow and the milk in his sippy cup with a 'you've got to be kidding' look on his face.
- Noticing the wistfulness on the face of an older Hartland neighbor of ours, whose family sold their last cows some years ago, as he sat at ringside and watched the judging.
- Watching the wild soccer game under the judging tent late at night when the showing was over, the chores were done, the fair visitors were off in the other world of the midway, and the kids who had been so focused and disciplined all day were suddenly just kids again.
- Seeing again and again the toughness, sweetness, confidence and full-out strength of teenage girl after teenage girl muscling, coaxing, and cajoling giant animals who outweighed them many times over. The boys were great too, but I was very happy to have our two girls looking around in awe at strong, smart young women who were definitely in charge of their destinies.
- Noticing the links between farm families, and figuring out that some of the littlest kids leading calves around the ring had grandparents who had shown cows in the very same ring, and realizing that, though struggles abound, we are blessed to live in a region where family farms continue not only to exist but to thrive.
If they had, they would have to agree that some families have never stopped being rooted in the land and in the care of animals and that those families are, in fact, having a pretty good time in the process of keeping those traditions alive.