Dairy Channel: Anti-fair person has change of heart

The Canfield Fair is over. Residents of Mahoning County believe it is the best fair in Ohio and will tell you so repeatedly.

I would agree… if I was a “fair” person.

To be a fair person, you had to grow up in 4-H or FFA and spend the better part of your summer raising project animals, anticipating a week of fun at the fair, moving to the fair, spending a relatively carefree week at the fair (while your mom took care of all of the details of life) and developing lifelong friendships and memories.

Truth be told. I grew up in town and attended the state fair about once every three years, hate really greasy food and get sick on any ride wilder than the Ferris wheel. Not a match made in heaven.

On the other hand, after 17 years of marriage I have finally accepted that my husband’s idea of a vacation is taking a string of cows and heifers to show at the Canfield Fair.

In the spirit of marital bliss (and with one son and a niece and nephew in 4-H now and another son starting in two years, we’ll be taking 4-H animals for the next 12 years), I tried to approach this year’s fair differently.

Careful planning. Instead of scheduling surgery (that worked twice) or committing to program requests in far-off counties (that would have been good for three days,) I took the whole week off of work and planned to:

1) Get all the preparation done well ahead of time.

2) Get the display up well before the cows moved in (it is so much easier to stand on a ladder and hang signs and decorations when a heifer is not sucking on your leg).

3) Provide parental supervision (i.e. tell them when something needs to be scooped up).

4) Visit with friends.

5) Play cards and do puzzles with the kids in our “down time.”

6) Read a book.

Truth. The best laid plans…

The cows had to go in Wednesday afternoon. Everything is ready. (This is a first.) Also, this is the last morning to sleep past 6 a.m.

At 6:45 a.m., some strange yowling drifts through the open bedroom window… then it happens again. OK, better see what the dogs are up to.

Austen is already outside looking. He goes around the side of the house. He reports that “Chuck has his teeth in Mel’s neck.”

I tell him to stay back thinking that Chuck might have short-circuited for some unknown reason. Coming around the side, he is standing quietly over Mel who isn’t moving at all and it looks like his teeth are stuck in her neck.

I grab his lower jaw and try to pull them out. Meanwhile, through the adrenaline rush, I realize that I can see his teeth and there is only a drop of blood.

Finally I see about a one inch section of Mel’s collar in Chuck’s mouth and realize they are stuck together, but there is absolutely no slack in the collar. I run into the house to get the scissors (which, amazingly, are where they belong) but can’t even begin to get them between the collar and Chuck’s jaw.

Austen runs down to the barn to get his dad and I realize the collar is so tight because the dogs had twisted during their play so now the collar is a tourniquet around Mel’s neck and Chuck’s jaw.

I rotate Chuck, pull his jaw out from under the collar (it was hooked over his very sizable canines) and look at Mel.

She has not made a sound since the initial howl that pulled us out of bed. Nor has she moved since we got outside.

If I had to guess, she was trotting happily toward “the light.”

Now, when your 9-year old is standing there watching his dog die, you just do what you have to do. So… amateur doggie CPR.

I compressed her chest a time or two and started artificial respiration. (Fortunately there hadn’t been a dead-groundhog/chew-toy around for at least a week.)

As soon as Steve got there, he checked for her non-existent heartbeat and then started regular chest compressions.

There are a lot of reasons that I feel that God was with us that morning. We were home, they did this up by the house, the windows were open, I turned Chuck the right way the first time and Mel revived.

Austen, Mel, Chuck and I just sat there in the yard under the old maple trees for quite awhile while Mel rested. I am happy to report that after a very low-key day, she is back to normal.

Event after event. Cows moved in without incident and Steve comes back after chores to finish trimming top lines on animals that show tomorrow.

He mentions that the TMR mixer is broken. This is Murphy’s day and it has 3.5 tons of feed on it that has to be unloaded. The good news is that the first batch unloaded fine so the cows do have feed.

After getting home, even this non-mechanical person can tell that there are big metal parts and chains in the gear box that are not where they belong. A quick fix is out of the question.

Because I have this policy of not learning to operate any new equipment (therefore, no guilt if you’re not helping), Steve had to teach me how to run the cab tractor.

He starts pitching feed off. He swears he had to throw feed at the cab at least 3 times to wake me up to move the tractor. I am sure it only happened once.

Anyway, by 2:30 p.m. we are done and head in to take a nap.

Memories. This was just the first day that the cows were actually at the fair. The rest of the week was filled with more moments to remember (not!):

* discovering our camper was parked in the preferred “climb the fence so we don’t have to pay admission” spot.

* having four kids get sick… at four different times.

* hosing off sleeping bags at the cow wash racks at 11:30 p.m.

* one of the cows broke out in hives.

On the other hand, the kids all had a great time. They had fun showing their heifers and playing with friends.

Monday they went on the rides they had been anticipating for months. They helped milk the cows in the parlor and were thrilled that they had earned that new responsibility this year.

Change of heart. By late Monday night, when the van was packed full and we headed back home to get ready for the first day of school, two teary-eyed boys are already anticipating next year’s fair.

To be fair (no pun intended), while the week was full of unplanned surprises, we enjoyed visiting with friends, watching a few cow shows and being together.

The anticipated down-time? We played cards once. The book? I got to page 12.

But I had this idea for next year…

(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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