The county fair is in full swing this week – and forgive me for saying this every year – but a county fair is one of those few places where you’re not judged on who you are, but rather what your pig looks like. Or goat or chicken or lamb or rabbit or thousand-pound steer.
As far as I can tell the first Socorro County Fair was held 72 years ago. This was before there even were fairgrounds. The exhibition hall was the National Guard Armory, livestock was shown and judged on the adjoining open land, and a roping contest was held at an arena north of town near the Casa Blanca nightclub.
Queen Lila Turner of Magdalena reigned over the two-day event and presided at the fair’s closing square dance. Ahem, the closing what? I couldn’t say for sure but I would guess that the days of do-si-do-ing, allemande left and right left, promenading and swinging your partner to-and-fro have been relegated to the dustbin of dancing, along with the Twist, Hully Gully, and Lindy Hop. I have it on good authority, however, one can still two-step or waltz with nary a raised eyebrow.
Moving on. One popular event of the bygone Socorro County Fair was a 15-mile mule race, but an even more popular event was “Kiss the Pig,” a fundraiser where people could cast unlimited votes at $1 each for the victim of their choice. The person who had accrued the most votes had to kiss a cute little piglet right on the snout. All money raised went to Literacy.
In a 1950 issue of the Chieftain, Socorro County proclaimed “a new era in agricultural and livestock development” that would “establish a new level of pride in this county’s economic progress.”
That’s what it’s all about, everything ag, and the thing about it that impresses me is the work the 4H and FFA kids put into it.
Watching these young people bringing out the animals they’ve raised and tended to over the past year gives me confidence about who we are turning the future over to. These are the people who will be joining the adult world in not too many years and we need them to straighten the rest of us out. Hopefully.
If I may, it’s been a few years since I was a 4-H’er, and one thing I remember is learning skeet shooting with shotguns out on the school playground. Can’t imagine that happening today, but in the 50s, it didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Although we lived in town, growing up in Kentucky we never missed a day of the county fair. We’d all pile into the family’s Nash Rambler station wagon and our mom would fry up some chicken and carry it to the fairgrounds with all the fixings in a basket covered with a towel. As good as any fair food you had to buy.
The thing is, I missed out on the 4-H experience of raising animals – other than dogs, cats, and the occasional hamster – so now I’m thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should get some chickens, or a goat or a pig.” I mean, who’s to say I couldn’t have a kind of backyard farmyard? For guidance on the matter, I turned to the old reliable, the Old Farmers Almanac where there’s some practical – albeit tongue-in-cheek – advice for the DIY farmer as to the pros and cons of backyard livestock.
For instance, the pro of having chickens is fresh eggs, but also if you can wring one’s neck as my Tennessee grandmother did so deftly you’ll have your own backyard KFC. The con, I understand, is that you tend to steer all conversations around to chicken husbandry. And that whole neck-wringing thing is rather distasteful.
As for goats, they can provide you with mohair and feta cheese. And they’re also hilarious. On the other hand … hmm, there is no other hand. Other than maybe complaints from your downwind neighbors.
Pigs, I’m told, are very smart and sociable creatures, and not as filthy as I’ve been led to believe, but all I can think is … bacon, sausage, ham. Although if you give your oinker a name, say, Wilbur, forget about the slaughterhouse.
Horses are also smart and sociable but they eat a whole heckuva lot, so I’m thinking the best horse is the one your neighbor lets you ride.
When it comes to cows, there’s only one question: “Where’s the beef?” Well, maybe two if it’s a Holstein: “Where’s the milk?”
But I digress.
By Monday, the fairgrounds will be vacant and we’ll all go about our merry way. Monday is of course Labor Day when all ye who labor get the day off. If you think about it, should be called Laborless Day.
Trouble is the Tuesday after Labor Day you’re going to be laboring twice as hard to make up for the work that gets piled up when you’re not at work laboring on Labor Day.
And so it goes.