By the time this is written, the flagship event of the summer will have become just a memory. I am sure for those folks that are involved, it’s the quickest week of the year. It’s the county fair.
As a pure city dweller, I am first to admit that that the County Fair is not exactly my event. The powers that be that produce this event don’t exactly have a middle-aged white guy that lives in the city as part of their “target audience”.
But that is OK, it’s a big world and I certainly don’t expect it to cater to every whim and care that I might have. I don’t need to be part of the demographic the Fair Board is looking for, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an enjoyable experience. And in fact, the fair usually is quite the enjoyable experience.
As I walk the fairgrounds, I am always impressed going through the animal barns. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for those that are able to care and tame some of these creature. My respect even goes farther when I see that is some of the youngest among us that raised these animals.
From the smallest chicken to the largest cow, I am completely taken aback by how these kids can take on the responsibility for another living creature.
Walking through the barns, you can see animals that are truly cared for. Beyond just the requisite food and water, there were fans, blankets and other accoutrements that were put in to make these small pens a bit more like home, or at least that I would guess.
The animals were well groomed and manicured. The sheep were sheared, the chickens looked well coiffured. The care these youngsters put in for their animals was evident.
But what isn’t evident, and perhaps more compelling, is of course the work that you don’t see.
I’ll be the first to admit, I know absolutely nothing about agriculture and livestock. I am not sure how old these animals when youngsters start taking care of them. But, I would imagine these animals are young. And I know it’s hard.
A few years ago, our family decided to raise ducks. We knew from the beginning this would be a short-term engagement. An arrangement was made with a farm-living family that once the ducks were of a certain age, we would hand them over. I think we lasted about eight weeks.
And you might think that nothing, absolutely nothing is cuter than week old ducks. And you would be right, for about five minutes. These ducks, were consistently loud; their chirps turned into muted quacks as they got older. They were constantly hungry, which also meant that they consistently made waste.
These ducks showed very little, if any interest, in human contact. While they were okay with being held and touched, you could tell they weren’t wild about it. These ducks required a special pen, special lighting. In the end, these ducks were work.
And we had it easy. Eight weeks, that was it.
I can’t imagine the hard work that these youngsters have to go through with their animals. And it’s not just the feeding and the cleaning.
What about illness? I couldn’t imagine how hard it could be to deal with an animal that was ill. It’s not like your livestock goat can tell you, “Hey, I don’t feel so hot.”
And of course, I am sure that the youngsters deal with the emotional attachment that comes from taking care of another living thing. I remember those ducks and how our own two children loved those two ducks. Anything those ducks did were either cute or funny and always enduring.
The responsibility, the care, the joy and even the pain that these youngsters give out to these animals is very inspiring. These animals, aren’t “projects”, they are a true demonstration that these kids can do something bigger than themselves. It is not just admirable, it’s flat out inspirational.
And there I will be next year, touring those animal barns, admiring the hard work of our county’s young folks. Those kids are grand champions in my book!
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.