I hate to jinx it

I hate to jinx it, but we have all of the fair projects ready more than 12 hours ahead of the fair. This worries me.

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It’s not that I like to worry, it is just that being ready for the fair ahead of time is not normal. I’m sure there are mothers out there who have nice categorized and labeled bins that hold completed fair projects months in advanced. Not in the Martin household. Nuh-uh. Not going to happen.

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Please don’t misunderstand. We are NOT ready for the fair. We have many things left to do. Clothes need washed. Jeans need starched. Snacks need to be bought. The trailer needs loaded. Chairs need to be rounded up.

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But for the most part, the critical things are done. The boys’ projects are ready. There will be no late-night picture mounting this year. We will not be crossing our fingers hoping the paint dries on the welding project before it is judged. We’ve got the pigs clipped and the chickens washed.

And early Friday morning it all begins. Wish us luck – and hope that I haven’t jinxed us by writing about being done early.

Calgon, take the chickens away

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Pre-fair week. I can’t tell you how many things we’ve had on our list this week. Here are just a few:

  1. Order photos.
  2. Mount photos.
  3. Finish painting welding project.
  4. Clip pigs.
  5. Wash chickens.

Here’s probably where you go – Huh? Wash chickens? Yes, that’s what I said. We wash the chickens. No, they don’t like it. You know when you see those YouTube videos of cats and how much they like getting bathed? It’s like that. Only with feathers. And a lot of clucking.

If you’re not from the country – or maybe even if you are – you probably don’t realize there is more to getting chickens ready for the fair than whacking them in cage. But as with any beauty pageant, it’s the details that make a big difference.

Getting their nails done? Check. (Clipping their toenails to keep them from getting too long.)

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Making their smile brighter. Check. (We trim their beaks, too.)

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Making sure their skin feathers glow? Check. (We dip the chickens in a series of “baths” that wash and then rinse their feathers.)

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Topping it off with jewelry? Check. (Leg bands help identify the chickens.)

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See – it’s just like backstage at Miss America. Here’s where you imagine how pretty they look when they are clean, dry and fluffy – mainly because I’m an idiot and don’t have a picture of that. I’m sure it has something to do with fair week. Cross your fingers we make it.

Life before air conditioning

This past weekend, we went to a pig show, which is really not all that unusual. In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, we do that a lot.

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That’s my oldest son and Big Mama at the show this weekend. But this pig show was different because (I bet you think I’m going to say something really great here like, they gave away a million dollars, or the winner won a new car. You will be sorely disappointed.) we had no air conditioning in the pickup. I don’t mean, the air blowing out of the vents wasn’t ice cold. It was more along the lines of a convection oven. Did I mention it was hot last weekend? It was. Really hot. To compound that problem, for some reason the engine heat was blowing on our feet in the front seat – even with the fan off.

So we sweat. And then we sweat some more. I think it is safe to say, it wasn’t our most pleasant trip out to show pigs, but the boys didn’t complain once. Neither did my husband. I may or may not have complained a time or two. It was hot, I tell you!

And what do you know? Lo, and behold a news item comes across my desk this morning: It’s the 110th anniversary of air conditioning. On July 17, 1902, Willis Carrier drew up blueprints to what would soon revolutionize the way our country beats the heat. The design was built for a printing company that had a difficult time dealing with the increased humidity and heat in the summer. But he didn’t stop there. Just think about what Las Vegas, Pheonix and Houston might look like today with no A/C. I can certainly predict that Wayne Newton wouldn’t be crooning in a suit. He’d be going with the Speedo look.

For some reason, today I have a greater appreciation for that particular invention today than I had last week. We didn’t have the pleasure of partaking in the celebration of the air conditioning anniversary party. In case you didn’t pick up on the subtlety of her name, Big Mama is a big mama. She’s pushin’ 300. And when you weigh 300 pounds and can’t sweat, you get hot. As is always the case, we were more concerned about her welfare than our own. We bed her down on bags of ice, stopped and misted her down and generally treated her like the queen she is. We, on the other hand, climbed back into the pickup and proceeded to sweat.

And then do you know what we did? Drove to another pig show that same day and showed that evening. Yes, we are crazy. I justified the move by saying at least we could stop, cool off and finish the drive when it was a cooler evening. Which is all true. But the “cooling off” part was relevant. It was over a 100 degrees in the cab of the pickup so stopping to where it is 99 degrees makes a big difference. What? You don’t think so?!

A different kind of camp

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Some kids go to basketball camp. Mine goes to livestock judging camp.

It’s all relative. Sure, there’s plenty of country kids that are into sports. Mine is not one of them. He likes working on the farm and working with his livestock. He asks for tools for Christmas. When some kids are spending hours on the field practicing baseball, he’s spending hours in the barn working with his pigs. So livestock judging camp was right down his alley.

There’s a great group of people that have put together this camp. We’ve known them for years and they are raising families that they should be proud of. Brian Anderson, another friend and former livestock judging coach at Coffeyville Community College and Fort Scott Community College, works with the kids for an intensive three days of judging and reasons.

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They spent the days in both the classroom learning the technical part of the livestock industry and in the field actually evaluating livestock. One of the things I love about livestock judging is that it teaches young people to make decisions and back them up. There’s no wishy-washiness here. You make your decision and stand behind it. Sure, you may realize that you don’t have the same opinion as the official, but if you can make him see your reasoning, all the better.

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And here’s how we roll in the country – my boy has a cast on his arm and the kids were swimming in the farm pond. Not to be deterred, they put an AI sleeve over his cast, whipped out the duct tape and Viola, he was good to go! And it looks like there was plenty of fun to be had.

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But here’s what it is really about:

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The kids.

Their two dads? Friends for years. They showed cattle against each other when they were these boys’ age. They judged together in college. They are still friends. Our two families used to have a cattle sale together. These boys now show pigs against each other, and inside the ring they are after each other. Outside, however, they shake hands and congratulate each other. They hang out together at the trailers. And not that I’m predicting the future or anything, but I could not ask for a better lifelong friend for my son. Perhaps someday, their kids will be judging against each other at their own livestock judging camp. And that would be just fine with me.

Hello, there.

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So long about March, my boys and I – all three of them: the big one AND the two smaller ones – went on what I called the “Pig-scapade.” We loaded up in the truck and pointed east. We have friends that live in Ohio and raise pigs. We, or more accurately, Campbell shows pigs. We decided to combine a family trip to visit friends with a pig shopping trip.

Normal people go to the beach for Spring Break. We go pig shopping.

As we pulled out of the driveway and headed down the dirt road, I pulled up Facebook on my phone and say, “We are embarking on the Martin Family Pig-scapade of 2012. I envision something similar to the Griswold Family Vacation.”

And I was right. No, there was no Aunt Edna strapped to the top of the car, but there was a pig box strapped in the pickup bed. Does that count?

A few of the Pig-scapade updates:

Pig-scapade update: stayed the first night at a trucker motel with a security guard, down the street from a strip joint and near an ‘adult super store.’ I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say this isn’t a common stop for families.

Pig-scapade update: A tip on how to annoy your sons in the backseat Crank up the 80s rock music and sing so loud they can’t hear their iPods.

Pig-scapade update: Lincoln is trying to learn the words to his “new second favorite song” Beer for my Horses. He listened to it on his MP3 player 27 times and sang every word. Every. Last. Word. 27 times. His brother is not impressed.

Pig-scapade update: It does not take near as long to drive across the state of Illinois as it does the state of Kansas. Just so you know.

And that picture up there? That’s my favorite picture from the trip. Hello, there, you adorable little pig you.