My vote for the bumper sticker of the week: “I’d Rather Be Showin’ Pigs.” Yes, the Socorro County Fair is in full swing this week. A county fair is one of those great American levelers 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.
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. I was talking with Nathan Ritter last Saturday at Kelly Hall and he was extolling the virtues of FFA and 4-H. He was saying he was proud of the fact that his dad, Dick Ritter, got him started in FFA an early age, and that he’s equally proud now his kids are excelling in 4-H. It all comes down to the fact that those programs are designed to make one a capable adult, and as Nathan pointed out to me, 4-H is not exclusive to animals, but takes in the gamut, from agronomy to robotics.
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 out on the school playground. Can’t imagine that happening today but in the fifties, it didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Although we lived in town, growing up in Kentucky we never missed a day of the county fair in my hometown. 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 experience of raising animals - other than dogs, cats, and the occasional hamster - so now I’m thinking, “Hmm, maybe we should get some chickens, or a goat or a pig.” I mean, there’s no zoning law in Magdalena that says 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 obviously fresh eggs, but also if you can wring one’s neck like my Tennessee grandmother did so deftly you’ll have your own backyard KFC. The biggest 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 or Arnold, 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 questions; “Where’s the milk?”
But I digress. As always, the most popular and well-attended event with the county fair is the parade down California Street, but for my money, the good stuff’s at the fairgrounds. Besides the drama of the livestock judging, there are the hot competitions in the flowers, art, baking and produce divisions. You name it. There’s even a category for the best chile For me, any chile is the best chile. I can smell them now, tumbling around and roasting away with that sweet aroma wafting through the air. It’s an odor that’s unmistakable and it’s a wonder it’s not illegal. I wonder if anyone’s tried to smoke it.
What am I saying? Surely somewhere, sometime, some teenager has no doubt tried to. Probably better than corn silk or rabbit tobacco, I’m guessing. But here I go getting off-topic again.
This week I’ll be digressing at the fairgrounds. See some people I haven't seen for a while, eat junk food, look at the fuzzy chickens and go to the rabbit judging. Maybe bid on the ring cake, too.
Wish me luck on that.