Sunday, August 26, 2007

Croton, Ohio. Hartford Independent Fair. Our Berkeley guest watches her first horse pull contest.

This is a description of a visit to the Hartford Independent Fair, Croton Ohio on Saturday afternoon and evening, August 11, 2007. My wife and our house guest from Berkeley, California attend the fair with me.

This description was read by Victoria Chao, the WCRX-LP summer intern, on the Monday August 13 broadcast.

My wife, our Berkeley house guest and I entered on the north gate. So we are near the animal barns.

Our plan is to have an early dinner at one of the fair kitchens, then watch the horse pull competition.

On the drive home we hope to see the Persied meteor shower. This evening has been publicized on weather shows and in the newspapers as the prime night to watch the Persied meteor shower. It is a new moon so conditions are ideal to see meteors. We will also be driving through rural areas with little ambient light to dilute the light of the meteors.

A junior sheep auction is being conducted in one of the newer pole buildings.

The championship sheep was sold for three hundred dollars; the other sheep went for prices in the range of $150 to $250.

We all react the same. Very little money for a lot of work and a lot of risk. But on further thought, when any of us was fifteen, did we own anything that someone else would have paid $150.00 for? I know that I didn’t have anything like that.

We walk through the merchant buildings and then walk by the political candidate tents.
Last day of the fair so their give- aways are the bottom of the barrel.

Paper pads from a candidate for clerk of municipal court; refrigeraor magnets from the Licking County memorial hospital. Wooden ruler. Emery boards.

Wooden pencil from Ohio Department of transportation.

In another building, the craft competition is a high-light.

The crafts are in the backroom near the building where the flower and vegetable competition is held.

Our guest from Berkeley notes that it is “crafts” and not “arts and crafts.”


But she used to be a member of the socialist workers party…not a group noted for kind words or friendly deeds for their rustic brothers.

One category of craft competition that catches my eye is “Decorated bird house”….to my taste the standout is a bright pink bird house with irregular shaped black dots. The bird house is crowned with an electric pink feather on the peak of the bird house roof.

Another surprising category is “Marsh mellow crafts.”

Animals, vehicles, buildings are crafted out of dyed marsh mellows.

Most marsh mellows are dyed electric pink, acid green, day glow yellow.

Traditional white marsh mellows are used to construct a model of the US Capitol building. The possible sub texts are endless. The satiric implications are delicious. But with the third place ribbon, they are clearly not recognized.

This amazing creation gets only a third place ribbon. The student who made this fluffy building has a vision that needs more nourishment than a white ribbon.

Blue ribbon first place went to Phoebe Richards for a marsh mellow tree. Orange marsh mellow base, pink tree trunk and acid green marsh mellow leaves. Nice but too literal. Nothing like a marsh mellow Capitol building.

Soap carving blue ribbon went to Seth Akel of Johnstown Ohio. He carved a turtle in green soap. The size about two and a half inches long.

Another small turtle comes up in another event. Contrast the little green soap carved turtle to the fate of a another turtle in the competition called the “small ugly item” event.

Lela Gunn of Newark Ohio got no ribbon for her small ugly item entry: a small green turtle about two and a half inches long.

The two turtles could have been brother and sister. One gets a blue ribbon the other is ignored.

Other entries in the “small ugly object” competition were a small porcelain or pottery oriental doll (which I thought was rather beautiful) and a fish line (absolutely beautiful)…the dangles on the fish string were little plastic green pickles, two brass five point stars maybe one-half across, and a little, no tiny dancing elephant…not a republican elephant but a south Asia Indian elephant and no larger than a half inch. A delightful piece of jewelry. Folk jewelry perhaps. Is folk jewelry a category for anything?

Another “ugly object” entered in the contest was an old GI can opener…

The winner of the small ugly object was a preserved small alligator head. The head was maybe eight inches long and three inches wide. Sharp teeth intact and very visible. For this object Gene Piper of Sunbury got a blue ribbon.

We have dinner at the Homer Parent Teacher Organization food building. Always the chicken noodle dinner is tip top. This year too. My wife has a BLT sandwich and is happy too. Our Berkeley guest has the chicken noodles and a chocolate pudding for desert.

The evening event is the horse pull. The grand stand is almost full and the inner track is lined with people in lawn chairs and on blankets.

Eleven teams of two horses are entered in the light weight event and the heavy weight event. Mostly, the horses are Belgians with two Percherons and one Roan, as the old farmer next to me informs me. Some one else near by says that there are also Shires and Prussians in the groups. The old farmer is silent but shakes his head “no” to those assertions. Later, I google “dray horse pulls” and Belgians are listed, Percerons are listed. So are Shires. But no Prussians or Roans get listings as dray horses. Could the old farmer have been wrong about the Roans. And could the other one have been wrong about the Prussians?

The horses are mostly from Ohio. But there are also teams from Michigan and Kentucky. With two exceptions, all of the teamsters are men. One Ohio team and one Kentucky team each has a woman on the team. A teamster from Michigan wears overalls with no shirt. Other teamsters wear overalls with shirts.

The object is for the teams of horses to pull deadweights the distance of twenty six feet.

They start at about 4000 pounds of dead weight. By the time the contest is down to two teams competing the dead weights total 9500 pounds.

Sheer brute force of the animals and the farmers ability to control the horses with less strength is puzzling until I remember the bit, and its domesticating effect on horses…

Our Berkeley guest comments that the horses are engaged in a kind of ballet…I remember that she has a masters degree in dance notation

Sometimes the horses seem to be humoring the humans (this too from our Berkeley guest)

In the grand stands I’m surprised at the number of young people teenage girls and teenage boys watching the horse pull. I’m also surprised at the number of Abercrombie and Fitch, Ruehl and Hollister tee shirts…farm boys wearing these urban tee-shirts…mostly boys, but many girls wore them too…

The grandstand has a crowd of maybe five hundred or six hundred. The inside track has maybe three hundred more. All are totally silent while the horses are pulling the dead weight…then when the dead weight reaches twenty six feet, the goal is achieved….applause breaks out…Once when a horse falls to its knees while pulling, the crowd gasps in surprise but remains silent until the horse returns to its feet and tries to pull again. The teamster calms the horse down.

Horse couldn’t organize the event without the men…Berkeley observation.

When the dead weight of 9500 pounds finally settles the contest, the winner is the team from Kentucky.

The drive back to the city is perfect to see the Perseid meteor shower. We watch the sky and see no meteors. Perhaps Sunday night will be different.

Our Berkeley guest had never seen a horse pull before. I think it will be the strongest memory of her trip to Ohio.

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