The Intertwined Memories of the Country & Fairs
The Tennessee State Fair is a standing date for Daddy and me almost ever y year. Walking the stalls of blue ribbon cattle, he reminisces and weaves the most detailed accounts of his childhood.
As post-war children, he remembers working on the farm as long as his memory serves him. He says, “We had fun and enjoyed work, be- cause that’s what we were raised to do.” Even still, the 4-H Club often hosted career days at the local department store. This initiative intend- ed to show the country kids other ways to make a living, if they so chose. Actually, it is where my parents began their lifelong love affair. The story of Daddy selling his bride of 55 years her first pair of high-heeled shoes is one that I’ve heard all of my life.
I am so glad he chose to be a farmer.
Richard Corbin (my daddy) milked his first cow when he was only 5 years old. The Corbin farm was a diversified farm of grains, tobacco and dairy. All the while, some of his most cherished memories involved presenting at the county and state fairs. His older siblings, including his sister, showed cows.
“But she would also do ‘girl stuff’,” he winks, attempting to get a rise out of me. While these budding farmers set off into unchartered ter- ritories sharing farm life with the “city kids,” the competition actually became a time to “increase our abilities to do more.”
I’m curious if city vs. country was part of their gig at the fair.
Patting my shoulder he explains, “I think you’re trying to live in a dif- ferent world than we lived in. By the time our children came of age, they had already began integrating the farm kids into the city. We were more or less competing against one another to see what a good job we were doing… competition brings on responsibilities, but you should always have camaraderie with one another.”
A sense of community proves to be the common thread of Daddy’s soliloquies. I learn of quality selection, training to show, and he even compares cleaning up his prize-winning cow to getting ready for the spring formal.
Oh, the memories they made. I can just see he and his farming bud- dies dressing up the truck to sleep overnight in anticipation of Grand Champion (judging). Mind you, these were high school kids “glamping" in their 1950s truck for sometimes as long as two weeks, depending upon when their cows were scheduled to show.
“You can’t have a better community, unless the children grow up with an idea of what we should be. That’s where we got our sense of di- rection…from the community,” he says as I look over to my left where Mamma is tearing up.
Mamma’s touched by stories of taking care of the girls’ cows over- night, even though they may have competed against one another the very next day.
Sandra Logan (Mamma) grew up on a farm clear across town from Daddy; a peaceful, pristine place where I will someday be the fifth gen- eration to live out life’s final chapter. This isn’t the only thing they’ve passed along to me.
“It took a lot of patience and a lot of diligence,” she tells me as we recount the days of her helping my sister and me to get our 4-H Club projects ready for the fair. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything … you’re probably where you are today because of those early days.”
In this modern era when we keep our heads down in a box full of light, there’s a new generation of farmers steeped in community. Luck- ily, the lines of what’s “girl’s stuff” are blurred. The horse left the barn on monoculture and genetic engineering a while back. Yet, this new crop of well-worn hands is taking time to enjoy the sensibilities offered by rotating crops and livestock, along with other diverse agricultural methods. While the USDA considers farms generating an annual gross income of $350,000 as being small operations, very few of these farms actually reach such lofty fiscal numbers.
What’s to keep young agriculturists’ skin in the game? Folks like Dad- dy vow community is paramount.
“There’s one thing about being raised in the country. You’re always country and don’t lose that desire,” Daddy smiles. As we sit in the calm of a summer’s breeze, the birds chirp and I’m filled with gratitude for an age of innocence and high-heeled shoes.
May the multitude of “Made In China” midway prizes at these sum- mer’s county fairs only remind you to head on over to the exhibits and competitions to shake a few of the hands holding our future.
The county fairs in our area date back more than a century, spanning the generations and serving as a reminder of simpler times and com- munity; a celebration of summer and all it brings.
The Kewaunee County Fair kicks things off, running July 20-23 in Lux- emburg. The Outagamie County Fair follows right on its heels July 25-30 in Seymour. The 2017 Door County Fair is August 2-6 at the John Miles Park in Sturgeon Bay with the Brown County Fair running August 16-20 in De Pere. The Manitowoc County Fair is scheduled for August 22-27 in Manitowoc.
Speaking for all the fairs, Donna Henderson of the Door County Fair says, “The Fair is an excellent place for both youth and adults to exhibit their culinary and agricultural expertise.”
Visit the website of the particular fair in your area for registration in- formation relating to the numerous judged categories that are offered.
For all the diligence and patience Mamma and Daddy had with me growing up, I can pickle just about anything. And, I’ve made more pans of biscuits than I care to mention. As the summer heats up, and the carnies roll into town, here are two of my favorite blue-ribbon recipes fit for a girl OR a boy:
PICKLED CHERRY TOMATOES
MELISSA’S EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING BISCUITS