I actually have been working on a book now and then. It seems there are so many things that got in the way of writing in the last few weeks. We live on an acreage that keeps us working with a garden, chickens and livestock. We’re in the middle of a terrible drought now so we spend a lot of time watering the garden, trees and flowers. I actually had enough cucumbers to make 15 quarts of dill pickles, a few jars at a time.
Though I have the fifth Amish book in my Nurse Hal Among The Amish series well underway, I stopped working on it to work on another project. In the last two years, I’ve written two family history books, one for my family and the other for my husband’s family. Both books were for just the families, because I didn’t see a reason anyone would be interested in all the family pictures, memories and stories. Awhile back, it came to me that the history from 1900 to 1960 in Vernon County, Missouri might be of interest to those that weren’t living when radio and telephones came in to use. When the Great Depression and World War 2 happened or the struggle of farming families in the Ozarks during those sixty years. For those who do remember, they can read the stories and think, I remember what that time was like. So I’m in the process of combining the stories from both family history books. I thought it might be a quick project but combining and editing takes time.
Speaking of memories, we stopped at the county fair Thursday morning in Vinton, Iowa. It has been years since we walked around the grounds and through the livestock barns. It seemed like a good time to do it just to see what had changed. This was the first pleasant day we had seen in days, and we missed the crowded part of the day which was later in the afternoon and evening.
However, we didn’t miss the 40th RAGBRAI which is Iowa’s Great Bike Ride across the state in a week. When we were in town that day, fifteen thousand bikers rode through Vinton’s downtown and eat lunch on their way to Cedar Rapids for an overnight stay. The bikers don’t come along all at once. It takes hours depending on when they left the last overnight spot and how slow they are so the way we went home was traffic controlled by a deputy sheriff. The route is different each year. Always on roads that aren’t heavily traveled and through mostly small towns. The roads are blocked off so the bikers don’t have to worry about traffic, and the towns love to see them come. What the bikers spend is a boost for the local economy.
For years, my husband and I belonged to a two county sheep producers organization in Benton and Iowa Counties. I was elected president for a couple years. One of my duties was to organize the fair’s lamb food booth. That consisted of buying all the supplies, signing up volunteers and spending five long days from 9 a.m to midnight in the booth. My husband grilled outside, and I cooked inside while volunteers handled the customers.
The booth had been used for years without repairs. The year I took charge, my husband did the carpentry to screen in the cooking area to keep the flies out. We repainted the building and covered up the large black Suffolk sheep across the front under the counter. I did the free hand painting to replace the sheep.
We have just gone through one of the hottest summers in record keeping, and it may not be over yet. Back then it always seemed like the county fair was scheduled on very hot days the last of July. Our sheep booth was the only food booth that kept ice cubes for the pop. The sheep exhibitors came after ice in a quart baggy several times to cool down their overheated fat lambs.
Twenty years ago, the sheep producers group broke up. Our booth was torn down to make room for something else. The sheep barn has nicely painted metal pens instead of the splintering wooden gates now. The grooming table was in the aisle with a tethered Suffolk patiently waiting for his grooming to finish. Only half the barn was pens with sheep in them. The other half was pens of goats. Seems they have become a popular choice for FFA projects.
The whole fair grounds had the fresh scent of wood shavings mingled with the smell of the various livestock. A person raised on a farm with livestock can walk through one of the fair barns blindfolded and know which animals are housed in each by the smell. My favorite is the sheep and goats. My husband likes the horses, but we checked out the calf barn and fowl and rabbit barns, too.
It’s fun to see all the different breeds of chickens, ducks, turkeys and rabbits. We watched the young people who take such pride in making their projects special. One boy was instructing another, evidently a first timer, on what to expect when the judge came by his chicken cage.
We ate lunch at the pork booth. The grilled loin sandwiches were delicious, and the lemonade hit the spot. Then we went across the grounds to the 4-H exhibits. I enjoyed looking at all the different photography entries. The children have great imagination. One took a colorful picture of a tree top with very blue sky and white cotton clouds above it. Another picture was a horse’s eye. There were many more pictures and other exhibits such as clothes, posters and food. I can’t imagine how the judges picked the exhibits to go to the state fair.
By the time we looked at all those exhibits, I worked up enough room to have a milk shake. We sat in the shaded bleachers at the cattle arena and watched people go by while we ate our shake. One happened to be our neighbor girl, a senior this year. I can’t believe she has grown up.
A man stopped to visit and told us we missed a running of the bull. Just one bull, but I was glad to hear the story second hand and not be on that end of the grounds when it happened. A exhibit of open steers had been brought in earlier. They were wild. Two jumped the pen fence and ended up in the bean field by the fair grounds. One was surrounded and brought back before the beef had time to get to the nearby houses. The other steer was determined not to be caught. When the men tried to get around him, the steer took after one of them. When that man out run him, he went after another man. The storyteller said the man came out of the bean field with a pasty white face. He didn’t want to go back. The vet was called to tranquilize the steer. Some men kept an eye on the steer while they waited. By this time, the steer was very hot and panting hard. The vet came and looked for his tranquilizers to load the gun. He had forgotten to put them in his pickup so he left to go get them. While he was gone the steer laid down and stopped moving. One of the men mustered up the courage to go near enough to see why. The steer had died of heat exhaustion.
I loved the days we spent working at the fair. So many people to talk to that we didn’t see very often. So much going on with the carnival and grandstand events like stock car races, the demo derbies and tractor pulls. A calliope of noises of motors, tinny music, animals, talking and laughter that was only repeated once a year in that fair ground. Then there were the unexpected, exciting moments like the running of the bulls.