If you are distressed about the drift of America and want to get away, take a drive and go to a real country fair. It will give you a day of joy.
No, not an amusement park or a flea market or a town fair but a genuine country fair, the kind that are popular in rural areas at this time of year as summer winds down. Soon they will be ‘harvest fairs’ and there is nothing like a sky-blue day among the vegetable displays, apple pies, prize sheep, horse pulls, fried dough and firemen’s musters to make you forget our nation’s woes, temporarily at least.
I attended the Cummington Fair recently in Massachusetts. ‘Always the Weekend before Labor Day Weekend’ say the signs and the advertisements. Cummington once was a thriving agricultural town and the fair is one of the oldest in the nation. But today, farms in Massachusetts are dwindling in number, while Cummington now is surrounded by wild mountain forests but little open space, certainly the opposite of 100 years ago when agriculture thrived on a more open land of pastures and fields.
The Fair is awesome, but a tiny one compared to the behemoth state fairs in the Midwest or out in New York state where big-scale agriculture still thrives. And thinking ahead, why would you want to sit and watch cows being judged at a little event like Cummington? Or walk through a barn full of sheep munching hay? Or observe a lumberjack competition, or take a ride on the ferris wheel?
And the answer is because it is there, that is why. Because once you are there, you realize that a fair like Cummington is something truly out of America’s more innocent past and that that is the reward of it. It is just a pleasure to have all these events on a hot, clear summer day like the tractor pull or the 4H animal judging or the vaudeville act Doctor Paddywack who plays nine instruments at once and is a pure smile-maker if there ever was one.
And it’s not just the displays, but all the other people having fun that makes it even better, people from far and wide from farmers to city folks. It’s just a hoot. More fun than you can shake your hot kielbasa sausage at.
Even in a place like rural Massachusetts with young people leaving and towns shrinking, the Cummington Fair reminds you that families rule and kids are king. Kids are everywhere and they just love the fair – the petting zoo, the four-person acrobatic act (two of them are kids), the antique car show, the nickel pitch and the rides, ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy and everything else.
Cummington truly is a trip into the past in our age of instant everything, including gratification. And to watch the animal judging, you realize that the old rural traditions reflect life everywhere in any era. You look at a big, hulking cow, its color, its shape, its coat, and then you watch the judge and yes, you can see, one cow is better looking than another. The same with the sheep that are baaaahing innocently away as they are pushed into position for their beauty poses, their wooly coats shorn like a tight white sweater.
The farm kids are wonderful. They radiate a healthy, optimistic outlook – beautiful young ladies, strapping boys, with bright eyes and ruddy cheeks and smiles on their faces, tending their prize animals, tugging them into the ring for judging, sometimes getting a recalcitrant animal pushing back and you wonder who is going to win. The kids are all dressed in a traditional 4H gear, white pants and white shirt, that often are pretty dirty by the end of the day.
In the animal barns, I finally got to ask some questions that always have challenged me: Do cows sleep lying down? (Answer: Yes, they lie down most of the time that they are not eating.) Is the old story about ‘cow tipping’ true, that you can push a standing cow over with one hand when it is sleeping standing up? (Answer: No.) Do horses sleep standing up? (Answer: Yes, it comes from their flight instinct, when they need immediately to be ready to flee danger.)
And I finally found out the difference between a heifer, a bull, a steer and all the rest. It’s basic biology.
We conservatives certainly see the country fair as a reflection of what we believe in – hard work, honesty, clean fun, a place where anyone can go and not just expect a good time, but it is guaranteed. And despite the liberalism of Massachusetts, the Cummington Fair is like a separate world where folks like lumberjacks and farmers come together to show what diligence can produce even today when so many of our citizens seem to be interested only in pleasure, sloth and ease.
The fruit and vegetable displays show pride in the growers’ skills. The knitting, sewing and crocheting competitions show that women have not abandoned their traditional roles. Pies, cookies, cakes and breads, gargantuan pumpkins and maple syrup along with canned peaches, pears, peas and carrots offer a window to the past when food came from the farm kitchen and the basement root cellar, and rural families were proud of their self-sufficiency.
Yes, indeed, the Cummington Fair is a celebration of America’s past and it is a past that still survives in virtually every state but that is not much covered by the press or is dismissed and ridiculed by the elites in Follywood and New York. But this is typical on the left: You malign the productive people and venerate those who are not.
Once when I commented on a farm in a town that seems pretty well developed, the owners said, “Yes, it’s the last farm in town.” It’s an old story and it sounds sad, but then again, America has changed. We are a big, modern, dynamic country and petroleum power has changed the nature of rural living, with fewer and fewer people needed to work the land. Small family farms in Massachusetts are hard to maintain financially. And that is the reason that rural populations nationwide are shrinking and people are moving into town, to the suburbs or even into the cities; because agriculture does not offer the employment base it once did on the family-by-family farms that once made up our rural economy.
This sure is a shame, but one of the things the Cummington Fair makes you realize is that farm life is a lot of work for a little money. These folks are a different breed and they truly are born to their lives; otherwise they would never be in it. They are friendly and always willing to answer questions and have integrity written all over their faces.
Seeing the fair, you finally realize that Cummington reflects nothing about money, but everything about a pursuit of individualism and happiness. And that we still have rural people even here in Massachusetts who are keeping alive a lifestyle that unfortunately becomes a little more distant with the passing of the Cummington Fair each year.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.