What Not to Wear Around Livestock

Posted on October 11, 2010


During our visit with our friends Glenda and Ralph who live in York Harbor, Maine, we attended the Maine Fryeburg Fair.  Imagine a wine festival, only they ran out of wine and someone ran to the 7-11 and stocked up on beer and soda.  Or a food festival that featured totally normal foods like pickles and Oreos that were thrown into a vat of cheese and then deep fried.  Or the AKC Dog Championship Best in Show where all the dogs ran away and someone could only find pigs, chickens, cows, steer, oxen, and draft horses to take their place.  Or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” where all the people on the show with names starting with K had to throw out all their designer clothes and wear only….  OK, you get the picture.


About a mile before the actual fairgrounds, all homes on the main road had big signs out front advertising $5.00 for Festival parking.  We located one and parked in their side yard, halfway up a tree. Then we trudged on to the fair, in a sea of plaid flannel shirts, tattoos and black leather boots. And that was just the children.


The fair offered a mind-boggling array of activities that involved farm animals.  Among them: pulling steers, sheep breed classes, an open pig scramble, and horse pulling.  Non-animal events included a whoopie pie contest, tractor pull, skillet throw and scooting contest.  I’ve already had experience with skillet throwing, when, one Chanukah, my daughter Yael and I attempted to make latkes (potato pancakes) and instead, consumed the entire house in thick, greasy smoke.  We threw the skillet outside. 

I missed a lot of the actual events at the fair because I was sampling the deep fried tuna sub and deep fried salad.  We did, however, walk through giant barns with stall after stall of award-winning cattle, goats, pigs, etc.  We saw a baby cow within about 45 minutes of birth.  It was so tiny, it still had the umbilical cord attached.  It was a great scene: Serene mom, newborn baby, stable barn, adoring visitors.  Had it been evening, there would have been a star in the sky, leading everyone there.

I learned about the difference between a bull, an ox, and a steer.  One of those guys is castrated, but no one would admit that it was him.  Outside, there were very large oxen, strolling around as though they weren’t technically capable of goring every person in their path.  I, being that amusing combination of animal lover and stupid human, marched up to one of these behemoths and stared petting him.  Unfortunately, no one had told me that wearing a leather coat might not be the best clothing one would want to wear around an animal that weighs many tons and responds to the scent of hide.

The ox immediately shoved his head directly into my side and started licking me all over.  I didn’t know if the aroma of leather made him think I was date material, or if he recognized the scent of a murdered family member and he was salivating, contemplating  revenge.  I remembered hearing what to do when a wild animal is seriously considering ripping you to shreds.  I stood my ground and whispered “Good doggie” over and over, until I was soaking wet and it became clear to me that he had romance on his mind.  Just before he was reluctantly led away, I gave him my number and he promised to keep in touch.  But he didn’t call me in the morning.