Childhood Legend: Country Life Edition

I found myself writing about rural life lately and decided to add even more “country mouse” perspective to the blog. You can skip right over these to my typical topics, or enjoy something a little different once a week. It’s a fun creative outlet for me plus a good way to document raising our family in the middle of a cornfield. 


She slid out of her cowboy boots and came around the corner of the living room with more energy than she should have had at 11 PM. Sweaty curls had escaped her ponytail and framed her wide-awake eyes as she told us about the county fair night that kept them out so late.

The grandstand show got over – the annual demo derby – but as cars lined up to leave, the dads in the beef barn circled up to compare weather radars. Most said a storm was heading their way which meant they should bring the show cattle back up into the beef barn from where they were tied up out by the trees. But it was late and farmers don’t get too excited.

Unless they are 12.

During the fair, the beef cattle live in the stalls of the beef barn. It’s an open building, just a roof and posts, hypothetically offering the potential for air movement. Despite the tough midwest July heat, the animals are well-cared for with fresh bedding, personal fans, and a daily bath. At night the heifers and steers are taken out to a cooler spot. Bedding last longer this way and for some it feels like home, where they might sleep in the open pasture. The cool ground is comfortable and familiar and the breeze moves freely without buildings in the way.

I’m sure she tried to keep her cool as the parents discussed the certainty of the weather, but novelty is novelty and it’s not everyday you have to bring your animal in for protection from the weather. I imagined her bouncing a little as they exchanged forecasts, as she waited to hear the verdict of what they should do.

The rain is an annual occurrence at the county fair. Almost every year the stifling heat is interrupted by a storm. But how much rain would fall? And what about lightning and high winds? This was a severe thunderstorm and recent weather had taken out trees and powerlines. Just 4 days earlier 6 inches had fallen threatening the stamina of produce and making some roads impassable for a solid 24 hours or more.

She recounted the drama that came with the decision to bring in the animals. Rearranging things, preparing the space, facing those lines of cars. Trying to beat the storm.

The pickup truck pulled into home right as the wind picked up. My friend and I had been sitting on the porch watching the lightening storm move closer. It filled the sky beyond the dark cornfield, lighting up the night more brilliantly than fireworks. My friend said it reminded her of lightning on the African plains from her year doing mission work. The flatness of our land is remarkable. You can see for miles.

In the end the rain came and brought some relief to the high temperatures. The cooler temps lasted a few hours into the morning; enough to get us through the morning beef show. The cows were safe and some excitement was now built into her stories of the 2016 fair, fighting the elements with her dad.

It’s these stories and experiences that make this annual event her own. We’ve been coming here for years and plenty remains the same from year to year. But she’s only 12 and so she’ll bring this story home with her to become part of the legends of her childhood. Part of her memories growing up a rural farm girl.  


Rural farm girl with crossbred heifer in show ring at county fair.

Rural farm girl with crossbred heifer in show ring at county fair.


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