Monday, August 8, 2011

Kids of All Ages

Each year, one of the more popular exhibits at the Indiana State Fair are the litters of newborn piglets; I have never visited the Swine Barn when the piglets' enclosures aren't surrounded by small children and their parents. There are always one or two strollers nearby, vacated by the toddlers so they can get closer to the baby pigs. The piglets respond to a signal from Mom, telling them it's time to eat. They all pile on, each returning to the same assigned teat, while the sow lies quietly, almost oblivious to the busy-ness surrounding her and her offspring. 

The children's expressions as they watch are a mixture of curiosity and awe. And they have questions -- the air is filled with the sound of children asking questions. One time I saw an old farmer reach into the pen and pick up one of the piglets to show to the children. He held it down to them and let them touch it, carefully, of course, as he patiently answered each of their questions.  

It's an old story by now that people have become so alienated from the source of their food that they have no idea that real actual people work the land and raise the animals that end up on their dinner plates. I have a notion that, for a lot of these kids, the visit to the Fair -- the Swine Barn, the Cattle Barn, etc. -- is the only contact they will ever have with the sources of their food. Perhaps, if people did have more encounters like the children had with the farmer, they may grow to have more respect for the Earth, as well.  

I was a city kid and still harbor some romantic notions of growing up to have a horse. But I did have 4-H. When I was in fourth grade the county extension office for my county introduced 4-H programs into the city schools. I was so excited when I heard about it! Through 4-H I learned basic sewing skills and how to bake from scratch (pound cake, folks, with BUTTER!). I enrolled in handicraft, wildlife and forestry projects for which I built a bird house one year, made fishing lures for another and, with my dad's help, made an electric extension cord. I don't think these are things I would've learned any other way.

Last Saturday, children were showing their 4-H llamas and alpacas. While some farm kids may take their daily lives for granted, there is no denying their love and respect for their animals. As this girl was preparing her llama for their class later Saturday morning, her affection and the pride she had for it was obvious.


dive said...

I love piglets, Speedway. They're so cute. All that potential yummy bacony deliciousness running around on sweet little legs and squealing is irresistible.

It's great that kids get to meet animals close up. At least the girl with the llama won't get to eat her friend later on.

I was lucky enough to be brought up in the wilds. My grandparents always kept a house pig at the farm which would be raised like a pet but then slaughtered at the end of the year to last through the winter. As well as seeing piglets, lambs and calves being born I got to see what happened to each year's pig and to help stir the blood pudding and make the sausages and hams. It led not only to a bacon addiction but to a passion for animal welfare and a love of good honest organic food.

Anonymous said...

I love your shot of the little pink hands reaching out to pet the little pink piglets. So sweet! And I loved reading about the fair. The farm animals were always my favorite things about the fair. I liked them more than the rides and the candied apples! Thanks for bringing back those fond memories!