Sunday, July 20, 2008

The County Fair and Memories of My Granddad

It’s been a rainy weekend here. I’m glad I took my daughter to the county fair on Friday (when it was just occasionally drizzling instead of during Saturday’s downpours). Ours is truly a county fair where agriculture is highlighted. We spent a few hours looking through sheds of pigs and cows and sheep and goats and rabbits… You get the picture. We also spent more time than I would like watching the hog auction. The 4-H animals were auctioned off—with some pigs going as high as $6 a pound! I thought I must be in the wrong business, but then realized I’d have to have grandparents in the crowd to obtain such a price. That pig contains some expensive pork chops! We only rode one ride, the Ferris Wheel.

My favorite section at the fair is the old tractors. They were all present: John Deeres, McCormick Farmalls, Fords, Cases, Co-ops, and Allis Chambers. There was even one old steam tractor that was fired up and running. I pointed out my daughter a tractor that looked like my granddaddy’s: a 1947 Allis Chambers. He used it to raise tobacco till his death in 1967. When it wasn’t running, he parked it up on the hill across from his driveway, under a huge longleaf pine. There was always a coffee can over the stack to keep rain out and a blanket on his seat to keep the pine tar off. Two years ago, at a family reunion, I asked what happened to the tractor and was surprised to fine that it’s still running and a cousin of mine has it.

Granddaddy F. never had a large farm. He raised 3 or so acres of tobacco and a few acres of vegetables. He used the tractor to prepare the fields. As the tobacco grew, he’d use his mule, Hoe-handle, to pull a plow through to knock down the weeds. When the bottom leaves matured, Hoe-handle would pull a drag (or sled) through the fields, keeping pace with the boys doing croppin’ or pickin’ the mature leaves off the plant. When the drag was filled with leaves, Granddaddy would hook an empty one to Hoe-handle, who’d continue to stay up with the boys croppin’, while he attached the full drag to his tractor and pulled it back to the barn where a crew awaited to tie the leaves onto sticks and hang them in the barn to cure. Looking at this tractor, compared to the new models on display, it seems agriculture has come a long ways. Or have we? There are not very many small farmers left in business.

This afternoon I plan to read and hope to grab a nap. What’s your plans for the waning hours of the weekend?


  1. Thanks for this post and sharing the memories.

    I'm afraid, our county fair has become all too typical. It used to be primarily a livestock show with emphasis on horses and dairy cattle, 4-H and FFA events and displays together with a small midway.

    In other words, just like yours.

    A few years ago, though, the people in charge decided to move away from that toward making it an entertainment venue with fairly big named stars, both country and rock, and events like motocross races and monster trucks, all to pull in the people.

    As a result, the agriculture got short shrift and this year, the first in 75 years, there was no horse show.

    Consequently, I don't go anymore. It's sad really -- Not that I don't go, but that so much of our history has simply been jettisoned because some people don't see the value in it.

    Sorry to prattle on.


  2. My father would've paid $10 for that pig! LOL

    I plan to go down the waterslide with my kids and take a dip in the pool...and read if I get the quiet time...on a hammock under my avacado tree. That's about it until it's time for churrazco steak and potatoes at dinnertime.

    Enjoy your day off!

  3. Our local county fair still has the 4H show and the auction for the livestock too - a few years ago one of the bosses bought a pig and then after it was butchered gave us all some of the pork!

    The remainder of my day will be spent working on backing up my computers with my external hard drive, reading and knitting!

    And hopefully watching the Angels win their 3rd in a row against the Red Sox

  4. Shockingly enough, I plan to pack and clean carpets. We did venture to the theater to see Wall-e. Cute.

    You rarely see a real fair these days. It is an experience I would like my children to have at least once. I'll leave the Ferris Wheel to you though, not a fan.

  5. My Mom and I took my niece and nephew to the Dane County Fair yesterday afternoon and it was a totally different experience for me. I grew up in a rural area where the county fair was pretty much as you described it. This fair wasn't a bit like that. We did go through all the livestock barns because Hunter wanted to see all the animals, but they were really farm separated from the rides and activities. Kind of sad. Still though, it did my heart good to see those kids sitting on chairs in the bars with a showbox between them, playing Euchre with a good ol' boombox playing music. :)

  6. Our state fair is heavily set on agriculture, too, Sage, as you probably know. I didn't go for the last 2-3 years, but I'm sure it hadn't changed any.

    I shared your nap today.....LOL

  7. Sherman, the county to our west and the one to our NE both have those "big name" type fairs... As for big trucks and motorcross, I'm not at all interested.

    Scarlet, as that pig was 240 pounds, it'd cost your dad $2400 for a pig! I haven't used my hammock much at all this year, we've had so much rain and so many mosquitoes

    Diane, just as long as the Angels get the winning out of their blood before the Tigers (or the Pirates if they in a cross-league matchup this season) show up.

    Kontan, reading your blog reminds me of the problems with moving! I hope its going well.

    TC, the farm kids all seemed to be in their element and to enjoy the companionship--many of their families camped at the fair and they had the run of the place

    Kenju, when I lived in NC, I often went to the state fair (which was in October which makes more sense to me). It's a great fair--or at least it was 25 years ago.

  8. My waning hours of the weekend was full of fun and exitement of catching up on things I didn't get done when a guest was vi siting this weekend...laundry.

  9. I remember the classmates who were in 4H would be flush with cash after the fair. It always made me wish I could have had some livestock to sell. I always wondered why farmers weren't getting rich selling livestock at that price until I figured out who the buyers were at the fair.

    Our county fair is still like yours. We're so far from civilization, I don't think our fair will ever get commercialized... I hope.

    My dad still has the John Deere 5/20 that my grandfather owned and used. It mostly see auger duty in the fall but boy do I enjoy driving it then. Something about all the knobs, levers and pedals that excite me in a way modern fly-by-wire tractors can't.

  10. Your post reminds me that our county fair is going on right now through the end of the month. I haven't gone in years, but always did enjoy it. I enjoyed reading about your granddaddy's tractor too.

  11. Murf, did you iron too?

    Ed, did your granddad have a John Deere 999 corn planter? I remember seeing one last summer in SD--said it was called a 999 because it only missed one planting of corn in a 1000.

    Dan,you should go! I've always enjoyed fairs--not the rides and games, but the displays and talking to people.

  12. Shortly after I started remembering such things, my dad bought a top of the line 12-row to replace the old 6-row planer. I have no idea how old it was when they sold it but I'm guessing it was probably much newer than a 999 planter. It was probably a 20 planter. :)

  13. Great memories, and glad you took your daughter to the County Fair.

    It poured Saturday--we drove through every village from here to Pauleys Island

    Yesterday went to Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington NC. I have seen some mighty beautiful beaches in my life but that was the best. Thought of you

    The police were very friendly as they had to call a cab company to open our car--left the keys in the trunk. Don't know if I'm going to do a post around that or not

  14. Ed, I don't know one from another. The 999 was mostly mule drawn. I liked the story about the naming of it.

    Pia, Wrightsville Beach, wow, it is beautiful. I had a photo of a sunrise from Wrightsville Beach in my blog back earlier in June.

  15. Every summer, when I was growing up, I'd visit my Grammy in Kansas. Usually right around the time of the Morton County Fair. My best friend Jocelyn always had 4H animals that she would show. I would hang out with her in the stalls while she groomed them. Those are really special memories.