Today I took the day off work and went to the Royal Agricultural Fair, which is just about paradise for someone like me. Goats and sheep, chickens and pigs, cows the size of small elephants, butter sculptures, giant pumpkins, agility dogs, glass-sided beehives, jam and honey competitions, acres of vendors and demonstrations and exhibits. Goat-butter caramel popcorn, bison burgers, maple taffy, fig-cheese spread, apple fritters (I was good and just ate my bagged lunch. But I took deep breaths around the apple fritter booth...). Soft-nosed llamas and alpacas, daintily nibbling food pellets from my palm. Geese with shredded-looking messy feathers that reminded me of Billy Idol on a bad-hair day.
I chatted with the woman at the rabbit display and got to run my fingers through the angora rabbit's fur. I'm totally enamoured with the idea of raising angora rabbits. They're the size of Brio, and you comb their hair to collect it to spin into super-soft yarn. I would balk at sheering a sheep, but I could comb a rabbit, no problem. Can you think of a more peaceful craft?
During the dog show we paused for a brief Remembrance Day observance, with bagpipes, and the coliseum fell silent, with even the dogs sitting obediently for Last Post. Something about watching slender rescue dogs leaping and sailing through the air over jumps and catching frisbees makes me teary-eyed, I'm not sure why. Just the sheer joy on their faces, I guess. It takes your breath away to see any being throw himself so wholeheartedly into having fun.
The best part of the day for me was, of course, watching the horses. Welsh ponies with a delicate, tip-toeing pace. One grey one especially seemed to glide along hardly skimming the ground, the smoothest trot you've ever seen. It looked more like floating. Little kids about eight years old nonchalantly leading their tall horses. One little kid hardly noticed when his horse nibbled his hat. How would it be to learn bravery at such a young age? Some of the girls had bows on their braids that rivaled the big flashy ribbons their horses won. Dappled greys and silky whites and deep chestnuts and one amazing sunrise sort of colour I can't even describe, darkening to black on the horse's legs as if it had wandered into a pool of ink. It had a neat, small head shaped almost like a Mustang's. One beautiful Palomino seemed to collect first place in every competition he entered, despite the fact that he was a nervous sort and kept rearing and bucking. The judge must have seen something wonderful in him that I couldn't.
My favourites were the massive Belgians and Percherons and Clydesdales that shook the ground as they walked past, like great dark moving mountains. As I watched them being led at a trot around the ring, the idea of dinosaurs and mammoths became more feasible to me. I watched those great black hooves come thudding down mere inches from their leaders' feet and prayed no catastrophe would happen. Bringing them to a halt was like stopping an avalanche.
As I sat watching in the bleachers, a Mennonite woman and her three children sat down next to me. She wore the white cap on her hair and she and her daughter both had long calico skirts on. I smiled but didn't make eye contact because I just assumed she wouldn't want contact with me, an outsider...but the woman turned to me with a bright smile and said, "Are you horse people?" I told her I had been when I was young, and she replied, "We're cow people." They were showing their Holsteins in the next building over. So we sat and chatted for about an hour while her baby fell asleep on her lap and the horses danced by. I loved her accent. I loved the smiles on her children's faces. I loved that the baby was wearing mini Levi jeans. And I loved that this fun agricultural event could bring together different cultures. It's one of the highlights of my year.
A photo of an angora rabbit I took off the Internet (credit to Betty Chu):