Monday, May 18, 2009

4-H Fair, Wise Men, and Goose Carving

September 26, 02

Last spring, Debra had volunteered to assist the 4-H leader in teaching kids to work with horses and show them at halter. There were seven girls with various levels of previous experience. It all came to fruition last weekend at the Forest County Fair, the last, and probably smallest fair of the year. By Thursday night when I got home, all of the horses had been bathed, manes banded and/or braided, and tails braided and wrapped. Their coats were so slick, a rider would have slid off like water on a duck's back.

Friday morning at the crack of dawn, I was assigned to get up early to claim stalls and transport horses. I had eight horses to transport, so it took four round trips. All went without a glitch. Deb wanted to fulfill her lifelong dream of camping out with her animals at the fair, so I swept out the horse trailer as thoroughly as any man should be expected to do, and set her up a cot with blankets, sleeping bag, lantern, books, magazines, candy, and a cooler full of soda. When I showed her, she seemed to be truly touched. But the next morning I found that everything had been transferred into the trailer's tack room. Apparently I had neglected to use air freshener when I set her up in the horse compartment.

The show went without problem, and the girls walked away with fistfuls of ribbons and were happy.

This is the one event where you see a lot of local people of similar ilk once a year. Apparently, word had spread about me. I got cornered by the man that has staged the annual Living Nativity in Crandon for many years. I guess that it's quite a show, with markets and soldiers and beggars... the whole scene. Anyway, hemming and hawing did not suffice to get me out of agreeing to be a Wise Man. Evidently they have been searching for years to find one, so I finally agreed for the purpose of authenticating the scene. After all, I would be a natural at it. With quite a bit of fast talking, I was also able to finally convince the guy that I should bring Kookamunga as well. We shook hands on it and parted. I was pretty proud of my negotiating skills.

A few minutes after that, I saw the guy guffawing with my wife, though, and went to join the fun. But I stopped short when I heard Deb say, "See, I told you that strategy would work! I knew you could get that camel for the event." I'd been bamboozled again. Darn that woman.

The good part of the fair for me, though, was being introduced to two new breeds of animals that I had never seen before. One was a miniature Scottish Highland cow. This one was all furry with big eyes, huge ears, a wet nose and a friendly disposition. It looked like a stuffed toy. I think I'll get a couple of those guys. This one was not for sale, though. What was for sale, but back on the guy's farm was a Curly Bashkir. Have you eveer seen a horse with curly hair? These critters are covered top to bottom with curly hair. I haven't had a chance to go buy the horse yet, but pictures of them are interesting. I'm sure that Deb won't mind taking care of a few more critters while I'm off writing.

Then on Sunday, my brother came to visit for a few days for the first time in a couple of years. I took advantage of the situation and had him help me separate out the camel, horses and steers from the heifers. None of our horses are trained cutting horses, so we each had to settle on flapping our hats and whistling and hollering while straddled over broomsticks. After several hours of working up a big sweat and growing hoarse, Kookamunga finally got tired of chasing us around, so the cows stopped chewing their cud, stood up and gladly sauntered into their respective corrals. Who needs cutting horses, anyway?

Then it was time to go pick up a bull from the neighbor's house. The owner mentioned that we might want to remove the dividing partition in the horse trailer before we move the bull, so we did. However, we failed to measure the length of the bull prior to the project. The owner told us that the bull wasn't mean or anything, but warned us not to get him riled and angry. Neither my brother, nor I had moved a bull before, but could not for the life of us, figure out how to fold a big, long-bodied bull in such a way that he would fit into the trailer without raising its ire. We had no choice, though, and finally, after much prodding and pushing and sailor talk, got him stuffed in and the doors shut.

It was a loud, jolting ride home. I had no idea that a truck with all of that horse power in its engine could be bucked around so much by one squirming, kicking, banging animal trapped in a trailer. Once we got him home it was simply a matter of parking the truck in the pasture with the heifers, both of us climbing up on the roof of the trailer, and having brother hold my legs while I dangled down and unlatched the door. The bull exploded out of the back of the trailer, all steam and rage. It was not unlike opening one of those cans with a spring snake in it. I had no idea how I was going to get him back in that trailer by myself without a cattle chute after its service was performed.

Later that night, it was time to relax, and I started asking my brother about how his duck carving hobby was progressing. This is something that he has been doing for quite some time now, and is getting ribbons for his work. Living in the city, however, he doesn't get a chance to observe the real thing up close and personal. So I decided to go out in the dark and try to catch a goose to bring in the house for his detailed inspection. I was hoping that the geese would be like the chickens setting on their roost at night and easy to catch. No such luck. It was a chase. All squawks and hisses and flapping wings. Fortunately their bellies are white so I could see where they were. Finally, I made a diving tackle and caught one.

I took it into the house tucked under my arm, and after I had someone put the four barking, leaping dogs up behind closed doors, the goose settled down in my lap. There are feather patterns on a goose that I didn't know existed. My brother took close notice of where the folded wing tips ended in relation to the tail, and was pointing out the cape pattern on its back, when all of a sudden the goose let loose with a huge stream of what I can only describe as rank, foul, canned spinach. I have never waited and watched, but I always see pellets in the yard. This is a form that may never have previously been reported. It splashed everything within a seven food radius. Fortunately, Deb was upstairs, but Louise was tucked in for the night in her hospital bed in the living room, and started hollering, "Get that goose out of here. It stinks. You ought to be shot for bringing that thing in the house..." and on and on. So I took it back out, and went through a roll of paper towels cleaning up the mess and a drawer full of candles were lit to calm Louise down. Thank goodness Deb didn't come down through any of this.

The good thing is that next time my brother carves a goose walking across a marshland scene, that's another little detail that he can include.

I'm getting too old for this.


  1. What a funny story. No dull moment on the farm.

  2. Hilarious! Thanks for sharing-I will never look at spinach in quite the same way! Kris