August 22, 2008

Boston shoulder, sheep flank

Notes from a County Fair.

County Fairs in the US are, primarily, agricultural shows. The whole 4-H experience, which I only dimly understand anyway, culminates in going to the Fair. Thus you'll find, all over the Fair, cows and sheep and goats and poultry and horses and pigs, all being judged.

The first building I entered at this fair was one where both cattle and pigs were housed. In the display area, a small array of handsome bulls stood in a line, straight-backed mostly rectangular beasts. Four black, one white and one a muddy brown. Each with a handler who stroked the animal's belly with a hook on the end of a long rod. What's that about?

One big black bull was being handled by a slim girl, and he seemed intent on pushing her around. Once against the fence at the edge of the arena, nearly knocking her and it over.

She plied the hook and rod more vigorously. The animal calmed down.


The pigs, meanwhile, lay in state. Recumbent, most asleep. Two to a pen, and several dozen pens, these were weightier, fleshier, cleaner pigs than I've ever seen. At least two of the pens had women sitting with the pigs, in one case talking quietly to the pair. Who were asleep.

In the pen nearest to me one pig raised his head just that little bit, so he could reach a water spigot. Lying there with his head raised, he drank and drank.

Immediately above him was a chart with a hand-drawn image of a pig. Recumbent too, it might have been him. Or his partner.

Except that this image had lines across it, dividing the drawing into sections. And the sections were thus labelled: "Spare Ribs". "Side Pork". "Boston Shoulder". "Picnic Shoulder". "Jowl". "Loin". "Leg". And the chart carried this title in large letters: "Primal Cuts".

I don't imagine that pig is looking up at that chart too fondly.


Collection of port-a-potties, brand name Honey Bucket.



The 4-H building is a grab-bag of youth projects: cakes to embroidery to crochet to ... guns.

Yes, guns. David Silvas, who in his photograph looks no older than 12 or 13, also carries a gun in that photograph, and has put together a chart titled "Parts of a Shotgun"

Kelsey Krenowicz, no photograph, is responsible for a chart titled "The Pump Action & Semiautomatic". Looking at it, I learned that pump action disadvantages are that it has a "two piece stock" and is "not very accurate." As opposed to the Semiautomatic, whose disadvantage is that it is "not very accurate."

Semiautomatics have advantages, too: "Their firepower", "Fast fire", and "Holds more cartridges than revolver."

As opposed to Pump Actions, whose advantages are: "Fastest manually operated action", "Easiest to work", and "Cycles a widely varying power."

Yes it's true: I would like to know what "cycles a widely varying power" means.


In one corner is a tremendous cacophony of snorts and rattles. It's a collection of old engines of various types, huffing and puffing. At least one has been put to innovative use. At one end, puffs of steam blow empty Coke cans along a wired pathway to join a stack of them. There they wait their turn to be smashed by a blow from a hammer or something, to less than a third of their height. These midgets are then ejected into a basket.

Ingenuity, meet thy maker.


A large mud-bottomed arena is home to the World Championship of Mutton Bustin'. Rodeo, but with kids below 6, helmeted for safety. Rodeo, but with sheep. Baa-ing, annoyed, frisky sheep.

First out of the pen is Vance Crawford on a brown animal. He falls off in 2.2 seconds. Luke somebody lasts 2.58 seconds, and Luke somebody else lasts 2.94 seconds. These guys come 4th, 3rd and 2nd, respectively. The winner, hands down -- or hands clutching very firmly to sheep flanks, helmeted head very firmly on sheep shoulder -- is a young lady by name Nikki. She stays on all the way to the other end of the muddy pen, 7.59 seconds.

For her pains, Nikki wins a belt buckle. Yee-haa!


This was also going on. My guess is, it will be an Olympic sport in 2012.

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