I was talking to my sister Darlene Blackford of Rocky Ford this past week, and the conversation came around to county fairs. Darlene, whose sons Adam and Brian have graduated from college, remembers one year when Adam received a beautiful jacket for having the Grand Champion chickens at their county fair. (Both Adam and Brian completed a variety of projects during their time in 4-H, both livestock and general projects.)
The jacket was beautifully embroidered, but Darlene noticed that Adam never wore it. She never asked him why, but one day, when Adam was older — probably after he had moved from home — she was looking for something in his closet and there it was — the jacket. Then she noticed the front pocket of the jacket where “Adam Blackford, Champion Chicken” was embroidered. Darlene never asked Adam, but she surmised that he chose not to wear it for the choice of words.
Later, when Darlene mentioned the jacket to another 4-H mother, the lady told her that her son had also won a jacket. On the front pocket of that jacket her son’s name was followed by “Champion Swine.”
It’s just a funny story to kick off the Moffat County Fair. The story also triggered some humorous moments of fairs when my siblings and I were 4-H members and those fairs when our sons Jody and Jamie exhibited.
For example, I don’t think a year passed without a runaway when steers, heifers, and cows were being groomed just before fair. I can remember how the kids tied the animals to the fence, pulled out the hose, packed pails of warm water outdoors, wet down the hair, and started lathering the shampoo. Somewhere in there, an animal somehow pulled loose and took off with a son trying to hold onto its neck, a slippery undertaking, indeed.
The animals’ tails were washed last, and all of the cattle took revenge by hitting their groomers in the face with their wet tails. In my day of showing livestock — perhaps even in our kids’ days; I can’t remember — the housewives used bluing in the rinse water on wash day. It was supposed to make white clothes whiter. So, we added the bluing to the water when rinsing the cattle tails. We hoped it would eliminate any yellowing in the white part of the tail.
One year I had a 4-H poultry project. My chickens were white, and when I washed them I added bluing to their rinse water, too. The only problem was that I added a little too much, and the chickens ended up being blue. I had to go back to the chicken house and choose other chickens.
The cow I remember most from all of the fairs was Barley. She was Jody’s cow, and while she was gentle and was well- trained for show, she did not like sheep, pigs and perhaps not even most people. If an exhibitor worked with a sheep across the way on the wash rack, she glared, and we knew that she would gladly take care of the sheep if she’d had a chance.
Barley loved popsicles and ice cream bars. During the fair, if an unsuspecting fairgoer walked by Barley’s pen, and if she could reach the ice cream treat, it was gobbled up in a hurry.
Barley was also the first cow to find a dirt bank once she was let out into the pasture following the fair. She got down on her knees and started rubbing dirt all over her head. Before long, she didn’t look anything like a well-groomed fair cow. Barley did not look forward to the annual county fair.
Enjoy this year’s fair!