The Fryeburg Fair
Oct 30, 2008
We recently attended the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg Maine, said to be one of the ten best agricultural fairs in the United States. My first impression was that it was like most fairs; overpriced food, garish rides and games. I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds and noise.
After going to the Greek Gyro concession where we got gyros and falafels (which they probably didn’t have at the first Fryeburg Fair back in 1851) we made our way to the back to see the animals. They had many buildings housing prize bulls and cows, sheep and goats, llamas and alpacas, pigs and horses. As we wandered through the huge barns my heart began to calm. I was raised in the dairy farming country of upstate New York. I spent a lot of time in other people’s barns as a child. I loved the smell of the hay, frolicking with barn cats, and walking among the cows. One of our closest neighbors had black and white Holstein cows. They were named after most of the housewives in our little village. I think the farmer and the housewives got a kick out of that.
As we walked through the fairground’s barns behind the gargantuan bulls that were named things like Thor and Zeus or Harley and Davidson, I found myself getting rather emotional. I loved looking at their soft, brown, bovine eyes, encircled with natural black eyeliner. They were tied on very short ropes which I was told were to keep them from getting tangled. They stood or lay down, calmly chewing what must have been their cud. A friend that was with us explained that cows have many stomachs, and that they initially (and I use the term loosely) wolf their grass into a kind of holding stomach, and then later when they have spare time, (between staring, standing, or lying down) they regurgitate what they had previously swallowed, and spend time slowly chewing it so they can actually digest it in their other stomachs. Maybe part of a cow’s unseen life is mentally directing cud into their various stomachs which might explain their silence and slowness. It’s a good thing human beings can’t reprocess their cud. Imagine school cafeterias and the food fights ensuing from that ability. But I digress.
After looking at cows and bulls we walked through the piggy stalls. There were some absolutely enormous pigs that did not look friendly and even kicked the walls of their stalls extremely forcefully. I wondered if they did not appreciate being on display. There were a few truly whale-sized pigs, at whom school yard boys might have called out, “Hey you fat pigs!” and would not have been name calling. The pigs ranged in size from Volkswagen down to football. The cutest ones were a litter of a dozen or so piglets that scampered over their mommy and each other, squealing and playing like puppies. They were hilarious.
On to the alpacas and llamas who looked like Carol Channing or like ladies who sold jewelry on the Home Shopping Channels. They had fluffy, poofy bangs, long eyelashes, coquettish lips, and the aloof demeanor of models on the catwalk. Their cool faces seemed to say, “Come a little closer honey and I’ll spit in your eye.”
Then there were the goats, with their strangely shaped heads with wide apart eyes, and horns curling out of their skulls. Certainly they had charm too.
But the best of all the animals were the sheep. So many sheep. Some of them were wearing little raincoats with what looked like Ku Klux Klan hoods. I asked someone about them and they were merely wearing outfits to keep them clean because they were going to another fair later that day. Phew, I was relieved.
There were pens and pens of sheep that stretched their necks toward us as we passed. Peter and I found that the more we rubbed their woolly heads and spoke to them, the more responsive they became. After scratching and rubbing two hundred or so sheep around the ears and horns, and looking into their eyes, both Peter and I became profoundly uplifted by the palpable love we exchanged with them. I found my eyes inexplicably filling with tears numerous times. The natural world has much to teach us when we resonate with it on a primal level. We reached a rather ecstatic state communing with the farm animals that afternoon.
It made me think of the poem, “A Child’s Pet” by W. H. Davies, about a sailor taking sheep from Baltimore to England over a hundred years ago. They were so afraid at sea, that many of them died on the voyage. These are the last 3 stanzas:
“Yet every night and day one sheep
So every time we passed it by,
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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