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The Tentacle


September 20, 2007

Oh! The Joy of The Fair

Patricia A. Kelly

I'm sitting at my desk on 3rd Street, listening to the tractor pull at the Great Frederick Fair. I've been able to hear it at my house almost every year of the 25 that I have lived in Frederick, always at the back of the house, on the north side of the street. Go figure.

I love the fair. The older I get, the more I love it.

There's the ritual of standing in line for the incredible roast beef sandwiches and fresh cut fries at a certain famous food stand.

There's the arts and craft building, with photographs, wooden works of art, decorated cakes, quilts and all manner of childish creations of uncertain purpose.

There are the animals, the birthing tent, the milking stand, and the rides, particularly those best shared with wide eyed children, of course.

Most of all for me, there is the poultry house. This year, in addition to chickens of every shape and size, turkeys, and ducks, they have guineas.

The guineas, with their eerie, musical calls, take me back to Texas, to the farm of Charlie and Lydia Kladiva, friends of my grandmother's. At their house we ate fresh warm Czech rolls filled with sweet poppy seeds and baked in the oven of her woodstove.

We learned that guineas can run about 50 miles per hour. No little kid can catch one, no matter how fast she runs.

We learned not to carry a baby duck. (I can't tell you why or they'll say I mention poop in every column.)

There were all kinds of birds at Mrs. Kladiva's, along with greased baby pigs, baskets of eggs for sale in the hallway, a bucket of fascinating slops for the pigs, and, often, some infant animal in a box behind the stove. Once, I sat in a chair in the house and watched a hawk, right outside the window on a low tree branch, feasting on the brains of a small bird. I was enthralled.

In the poultry and rabbit house, I talk to the roosters. They stand tall, trying to pretend they're not intimidated by my voice. I find an egg in a cage, and tell my companion of my grandmother hatching eggs nestled into fabric in a shoebox in her kitchen. As soon as the shell was pecked through by the chick, I would beg my grandmother to help it the rest of the way out.

"Never help a chicken out of its shell," she would answer. "If you do, it won't live because it won't be strong." A universal truth, one of many to be found at the fair.

My grandchildren are city kids, not blessed with long summer visits to a farm. I'm not sure they get it about their meat coming from creatures that were once alive. I'm not sure they don't take for granted the wood from Lowe's and the frozen peas in a bag that are part of their lives.

The thing about the fair is that, in addition to the carnie atmosphere, exciting rides and all the odd visitors, there are real values and simple joys to be found everywhere.

Be sure to take your kids. If they can't experience picking cotton or plucking chickens, at least take them to see the agricultural side of the fair. Help them to get perspective on, and respect for, that package of frozen chicken pieces.



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