Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The miracle of life ... and corn dogs

Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
There was a time (exactly this time last year in fact) that Annabel's love for barnyard animals was trapped in the pages of her story books.

At an early age, you see, she could tell chicks from cygnets, and cygnets from ducklings. Her voice boomed bass (or as low as a toddler can sound) for the daddy cattle while she screeched up high giving a "voice" to the baby ones. Since we'd traipsed through the farmyard, page by page for months, we naively thought she'd enjoy a trip to the fair to see the real things, up close and in person.

But picture books, we learned, don't really prepare tots for the realities of livestock. Toulouse Geese don't make their truck-horn sounds apparent under the bonnet of timid Mother Goose tales, and the size comparison isn't even close. The nearest I think a child's book can really come to life on the farm would be if publishers employed scratch and sniff technology, and let's face it, there are a precious few of us who'd pay good money to give the smell of silage and manure space on our bookshelves.

Understandably, as the year wore on -- after the traumatic experience of screaming and crying from one barn to the next -- her interest in the farm books waned.

So with a little apprehension (and the comfort of a plastic giraffe), we headed off to this year's fair and aimed ourselves in the direction of the livestock exhibits first thing. I figured we could get them out of the way quickly if she decided the animals were too scary and go right to the food. (After all, who wants to eat at the goat barn? Not I.)

It was as if she'd remembered the torture of a year ago, and decided to settle an old score.

"Cows!" She instructed. "Cows, mama." And off we went. Past turkeys, sheep, goats and pigs into the cattle barns. No sooner had we gotten there then she'd reached out her itty bitty hand to give Bessie's head a little pat. "Enough!"

"Chickens! Chickens, mama."
So off we went to see fowl.
"They're funny ... and loud," she laughs.

"Rabbits. Let's go see rabbits next," she instructs, pulling at my pant leg and grunting with exertion. "Ooooh, they're sooooo cute," she squints inside the wire cages, wriggling her nose in imitation.

"What are we gonna see next? How about the chicks?"

And off we go to see something that looks like a popcorn popper containing twelve eggs. Many of them are still whole, but others have large cracks and holes made in perfect circles by the tiny egg teeth on the tops of the chicks' beaks. Some of the babies, still covered in the gook of life, lay spent on the warm grate, resting from their hours-long struggle to get free.

"See that right there," points out a woman at the exhibit. And I look into the incubator to see a foot protruding from an otherwise perfect shell. "I've never seen anything like that in my life. They never come out feet first."

She tells me the eggs came from Cornell, where their genetic codes have been collected and studied. Turns out the University fully expects one of 12 to die -- no more, no less. "That could be one that doesn't make it," she says sadly.

So we leave with a little bit more knowledge of the miracle and mystery of life, but wondering if that little breech chick will survive the night. Annabel wants to stay and make sure the chicks "go to sleep," but we coax her out with the promise of a corn dog I'll have to "peel" and a ride in a tea cup I'll soon regret. By the end of the evening we have an entirely new way to see the fair: A midway adventure; the call of the animals, the lure of the games and the thrill of the rides.

"It's fun here, mama. Let's go again."

tea cups mini donut


Andrea said...

That sounds like such sweet time spent. And oh the corn dogs! I craved those things like crazy when I was pregnant. Childhood excitement is incredible to behold.

ECR said...

I'm glad Annabel was able to appreciate the full splendor that is the country fair. I took The Boss this past Monday and she peed all over herself while I was changing her in the stroller. I think she's still too young to get it.