2009.09.10 Avoid the fair crowds and visit a lonely local cow

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I read over the weekend that the Fulton County Fair has the second-highest attendance of any agricultural fair in Ohio. What’s even more amazing is that Fulton County has one of the smaller population numbers among Ohio counties.

Last year, the fair had an attendance total of over 263,000, according to Ohio Department of Agriculture figures. That’s in a county of about 42,000 people. To the north, the Lenawee County Fair attracted an attendance of about 60,000 in a county with 100,000 residents. Fulton’s fair brought in over four times the people that Lenawee’s did with less than half the population.

To the east, the Lucas County Fair attracted just 40,000, even though Lucas County has over 455,000 residents. The only Ohio fair with a higher attendance than Fulton’s is in Mahoning County, on the state’s eastern border. Their fair’s number of visitors is listed as just over 302,000, about 39,000 more than Fulton County, but their population, at 257,000, is over six times that of Fulton.

 It looks like the Fulton County Fair is the place to be if you like crowded places. It’s sort of the Michigan International Speedway of fairs, except at MIS, you can only smell the exhaust produced by the race cars. At a county fair, it’s all too possible to step in the “exhaust” of the animal participants.

But how about those poor animals that don’t get to go to the fair? Do you suppose they are sad that they don’t get many or maybe even any visitors? I’m starting to think that might be the case.

A friend stopped by to visit me last Saturday and mentioned that she drove past a farm near Fayette and several of the cows were standing by the fence at the edge of the road. We decided to go by again Saturday night and have another look.

Just as she had said, there were four or five cows standing along the fence line facing the road. Since there was no other traffic, we stopped for a few minutes. Eventually, another cow wandered over, then another, then a couple more. Ultimately, we had a couple dozen cows lining the fence, while the rest of them continued with their normal activities.

What do you say to a group of apparently lonely cows just standing there looking at you? Should I ask if they’re lonely, or is that too personal? How about food? Are you cows getting enough to eat? Are the farmer’s hands cold, or does he have a milking machine? Does anyone else ever stop to look at you? Do you wish you could go to the fair? Or don’t you like crowds?

We never heard as much as a “moo” out of any of them, so I guess they didn’t know what to say, either. Eventually, we saw another vehicle coming so we had to be on our way.

On Sunday, I decided to detour past the farm on my way home and see what happened this time. Again there were a few “scout” cows near the road. Since I was in the Buick instead of my friend’s truck, they couldn’t have recognized it. I don’t know if cows would remember a person after seeing them just once, or if they were just lonely for attention, but they again began to move toward the road.

Within a few minutes, I had an audience of 35 bovine buddies lining the fence. Some even left the feeder and hay behind to join the group. It was fun to have the total attention of the cows without having to deal with thousands of other visitors. And that cow aroma wasn’t even noticeable, not like it would be in a barn. Again, the approach of another vehicle brought my visiting hours to an end.

Since Monday was Labor Day, I decided to see what the cattle were up to for the holiday. This time, there were only twenty or so out in the field. Maybe the rest were in the barn. But once again, they headed toward the road to stare at me with those big cow eyes.

I probably shouldn’t give away the location of my cow pals as I suspect their owner might not appreciate a parade of people stopping by for a look. Too much commotion might interfere with their milk production. I suppose an “adopt a lonely cow” program would be unworkable, as well. But it’s still fun to visit them. Can you tell I didn’t grow up on a farm?

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