The thing I love about observation writing is that you can not go out with preconceived ideas about what you are going to write, because when you do it almost always twists into something else completely. I went to the fair with the preconceived idea of writing about the midway rides and making observations about the people that were there in the middle of a Tuesday morning, but what this story turned into just as much was a story about animals with big sad eyes, and one animal in particular a sweet little donkey with sad eyes and a soft velvety muzzle.
It has been many years since I have been to the fair. Even when my beautiful girl was little we were at best sporadic attenders. The fair has been on my bucket list of things to do for the past couple of years though, ever since I picked up my camera with the intent of finally learning photography. This year had double purpose, I wanted to capture the stories as much as the photographic sights.
Most days the fair doesn't start until later in the day, gates opening mid afternoon and the rides beginning at supper time. This schedule catering to the working parent. However, this day must have been the early bird day, gates opening mid morning and rides starting at noon. I chose to arrive shortly after the gates opened. I wanted to wander the midway before it actually opened so that I could get unhindered, people less photos of the rides. Which may very well defeat the purpose of the fair, but that is just the way I work, people less photos yet stories full of people.
Leaving the field where I had parked, I had to walk past the pole barn where some heifer judging was in progress. Being an animal lover those sad little heifer eyes pulled me right into the bleachers of that pole barn. I climbed to the top of the bleachers and raised my camera to my eye, focusing on their sad, long lashed eyes. A few shots taken I pulled out my notebook and pen to start making some notes.
Not being a knowledgable cow person I had to look up the definition of a heifer: a young female cow that has not borne a calf. How do you evaluate a heifer? I would never think to describe one as well balanced and setting well on her legs, long through the rib cage with a nice deep V at the top of her ribs. On one particular heifer the judge wished for a bit more maturity in her face. After watching and listening to this I will never look at a cow the same way again.
Leaving the judging barn I moved on to the 4-H barn, wandering past more cows, mature cows not heifers, goats, sheep, alpacas and then my favorite, the donkeys. I made my way down the line, giving each a little pet and head rub. Then I got to this sweet girl, the littlest of the bunch. She stood so calmly as I stroked the patch of mane high on her forehead and then as my hand traveled down to that velvety soft muzzle. Never once searching my hand for food, she just wanted me to keep petting her and realistically I could have stayed and done just that all day long. What a great stress reliever petting is, I can see why pet therapy is such a wonderful thing.
From the barn I finally headed towards my initial purpose for coming here; the midway. I wandered the loop, camera in hand, snapping each bright colored marvel in its stillness. The rides had all seemed so much bigger and scarier when I was young. Part of it I think is that we always came in the evening after a supper eaten at home, the bright lights and loud noises amplified in the dusky light. The other part was that after one unfortunate ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl where my mother's cooking didn't stay in my tummy I have had an aversion to anything that whirls or spins.
Having wandered the ride loop I now searched out a place to sit and write for a while with my food booth delectables of a large size Pepsi and a smallish cup of fresh from the fryer french fries. I found a spot at a slightly sticky red vinyl covered picnic table located under a shade canopy. I had positioned myself in the perfect observation triangle, in the middle between a food booth, a game booth and across from the carousel.
Maybe it was grandparents day today since most little ones seemed to be holding the hand of one, also probably the reason for the earlier opening. By half past eleven small crowds were starting to gather in front of the ticket booth anxious to get the day underway. Some of the game booths had opened already, hoping to lure some of the grannies and grandpas with a pocket full of money and little patience into letting their small charges play and potentially win an overstuffed, oversized neon colored Tweety Bird, which they will then have to carry around for the rest of the afternoon, unless grandma gets smart and sends grandpa off to the car with it.
This is by far no Disneyland, as an all-in-black clad carnival worker wandered past with a lone cigarette butt dangling out of his long handled, trash clean-up pinchers. Yet he walked right on by some large loose chunks of asphalt on the walking path. Those chunks would do a lot more damage to an unsuspecting toe than that lone cigarette butt.
The air was heavy with excitement, or was that just the heat. The noon hour had arrived it was time for the rides to begin. I turned my attention to the carousel. The first and only riders for its inaugural run were a dad, his young son who looked to be about two, and his daughter who looked to be about four. The little boy caught my attention for two reasons, first his dad was of course standing next to him to make sure he didn't fall off, and second for his adorable sky blue, Thomas the Tank Engine rain boots. Then I looked at the little girl's feet, black rain boots with pastel flowers on them. Now let me say there was no forecast of rain for the day, and the temperatures were suppose to reach the upper 80's by mid afternoon. I am pretty sure that dad was here by himself with the kids and that he let them dress themselves that morning. I can almost bet that in an hour their feet are going to be awful hot and they aren't going to be wanting to wear those boots anymore. Hopefully dad brought some back up flip flops along.
Having captured everything that I had come for: stories, photographs and even some unexpected pet therapy, it was time to pack up the notebook, pen and camera and head for home. Three hours had pasted much more quickly than I expected. As I made my way back to the car, I made a quick stop off at the donkey barn for a few more gentle strokes to the sweet girl's muzzle. As I passed the judging barn there were some draft horses in there for a potty break.
I stopped for a quick minute to take a few shots and watch these beautiful creatures. As I sat there I noticed these kids at the fence railings across the barn from me.
The girl in the pink top and the rain boots seemed to be the perfect capture of the essence of the fair and summer.