I’ve heard people describe the most important moments in their life as those that take your breath away. Last night, as I sat at the end of the cow barn while the manure and hay laden dust swirled around my head, I’m pretty sure I was in one of those moments. That hose that goes from your mouth to your lungs and appears to be an essential part of life itself was about 2/3 swelled shut as I soaked in the full regalia of the County Fair. I guess my breath wasn’t so much “taken away” as it was merely prevented from being there in the first place.
In 1995 I met a deceptive young women who didn’t have a single spatter of manure on her anywhere and even smelled nice. More than 20 years later, after she used her irresistible personality to weasel her way into my clean, sterile, and controlled circumstance with metered fun and lots of disinfectant wipes…I am realizing that I was taken. Love can be so blinding….especially when it is primary due to the fact that your eyes are swelling shut because you are absolutely allergic to everything in your immediate environment.
My basketball team of kids…who don’t play that sport (likely because it does not involve feces, mud, or being stepped on by a 1000 pound beast)…are all being trained up like wild animals. Last night my sweet little five-year-old came over to me from running through a perpetual water fountain that the fire fighters graciously set up each year at the fair. She is soaking wet with something she ate still clinging to her chin and literal mud running down the side the of head. OK, let’s be honest, there is a huge chance that wasn’t mud. As she wrapped her dirty little hands around my neck and nuzzled her soppy, stinking, swallows nest of hair into my face, I couldn’t help but notice that she was smiling from ear to ear with that shine in her eyes that could topple a dictatorship.
My son, who is having his first experience at showing a goat at the fair this year, is sitting across from me holding a foam onion stress ball. This little trophy was awarded him for passing through the gauntlet of the agriculture learning barn, a place he loves to hang out. He told me that when people are having troubles finding the answers, he likes to help point them in the right direction. Anyone that knows my son, knows he was soaked in a unique form of kindness that is absent in most young boys. I fear that this will not favor him today as he will take his goat to the auction block…something the thought of has already caused his eyes to moisten. I did question his shirt choice this morning…because I think it is on it’s third day at the fair. Based on the smell, it is tired; his other shirts deserve an opportunity.
My true middle is a hot mess when we aren’t at the fair. This environment brings something out of her, like the confusing and disgusting behavior of a dog when it rolls and rubs itself on a dead animal. She looses sight of the fact that her ‘sno-cone’ is running down her chin and the huge green spot on her hip is something she sat on…and it really should be cleaned off. It is no surprise to find her in the sweltering, dusty heat of the pin with her goats, lying against their smelly bodies and hoping that someone will come and ask her about them. She goes from booth to booth collecting all of the free crap that vendors give away; her pockets stuffed with fans, chap sticks, and dirty-sticky-candy that has partially come out of the wrapper and is now working to grow a unique spore of mold before she eats it.
I have been blessed with one OCD child. Blessed you say? This one washes her hands and appears to have a general awareness of the filth that surround her. Sure, this doesn’t keep her from thinking the best place to hang out is on the inside of the cow barn, where the smell of animal stank literally attacks your senses. I’ve actually had more than one conversation this week about the various smells of different cow’s poop…a topic that could captivate any intellectual for hours. This daughter, is more retrospective than the others, and has been thoughtfully buying people gifts, drinks, ice cream treats, and trinkets to say thank you.
My oldest daughter talks about and plans for fair week for at least 9 months of the year. Her preference is to arrive at the fair before the sun has crested over the mountains and help the guard lock up for the night. I struggle to see how 15 hours of this environment can remain interesting for six days straight…but she doesn’t. Her love of veterinary science has magically blocked her senses as she is incapable of noticing the poop, snot, and mire that hangs from every part of her person. I would like to think that this would ward off any of the boys. However, at the fair, there is no shortage of equally numb neanderthals walking the diarrhea stained hallways full of dirty beasts…and wonder. She never stops wanting to wash, walk, and dote over her project…and anyone else that might allow her an opportunity to help. Seen as inconvenience by most, she jumps at the chance to diagnose bloating, wheezing, or a boil that needs to be lanced. I have always joked that it’s going to take a special man to see the beauty in this mess. If I’m honest, it’s going to take a special man to find his way to first place, because there is no shortage of people that have noticed her selfless hard working soul. My favorite quote from a fellow fair dad, “that one will bring a handsome dowry.”
And my wife, a woman who showers at least twice a day 51 weeks out of year, is sitting in the middle of this herd with a look of absolute happiness. As her apparently feral children swarm around her covered in churro sugar and bar-be-Que sauce she beams with pride. On this week, in this place, she is in her element.
Me…just a little different. I’ll blow my running nose one more time, mainly so I can hear the bronchial rattle of infection that is slowly building in my increasingly weak lungs…before I go and wash off the right side of my face that has something running down it from the cow that just snorted as it was led by my chair.