In all fairness

Moms of Stillwater
Moms of Stillwater

“Don’t eat that off the ground, honey.”

“But, it’s only been five seconds, Mom.”

“Yes, but we are in a hog barn.”

“I thought they had to poop in their litter box.”

“Its called a pigpen. And, no, they pretty much poop anywhere they want to.”

“Just like little sisters?”

“Ah… yeah. Kind of.”

What can I say?  We don’t have pets. We have siblings. Ample opportunity for caregiving, and neglect, I suppose. However, there are some lessons that simply don’t translate.

That said, opening day at the County Fair can be a bit of a culture shock. And not just for me.

As a lamb stands on a table with a leash around its neck, ambivalent about the crowd of sticky preschoolers plugging their noses, a woman begins her demonstration on shearing. Patches of white wool peel off the sheep’s back and land in a pile on the ground. A barrage of questions explodes from the short crowd: Does it hurt when you Taser him? Do you keep his baby hair? Do you use the wool by its butt for brown socks like my dad’s?

A few mommies flinch.

Exposure. Somehow, between the dance classes, karate camp and even vacation Bible school, they have had little time to interact with the symbiotic nature of life. The hard realities. The dirt and poop that’s not of their own making.

So what if they don’t know that chickens aren’t born barbecued or Chipotle flavored? There is still time, right?

A little self-talk takes place: Exposure leads to questions. Which leads to knowledge. Which leads to wisdom….

“Don’t put your finger in that cage. It’s a vampire bunny. Look at its eyes,” my 8-year-old says.

Reprimanded by his younger sister, “She’s not a vampire. That’s just eyeliner. You have to wear it on performance days.”

Now, come on. They might not be able to categorize hotot dwarf rabbits, but there should be some middle ground between this and vampire bunny or performance diva. Note to self: Vote “Yes” for the school levy this fall. Clearly we need additional field trip funding.

I look up to find my 10-year-old chuckling at the entry ticket hanging from a chicken wire cage. “Breeding category. Well, that has to be awkward.”


In truth, I, too, have had this juvenile thought. Pregnant four out of the last eight summers, I still cannot walk by the live birthing barn at the Minnesota State Fair without a little extra speed in my gait. With early September due dates, it was always a little too easy for me to sympathize with those poor, heaving sows in the crowded hot barns, live cameras tracking their progress. A happy vet standing next to a news anchor still wearing his shiny latex gloves. A heavy man enjoying a porkchop-on-a-stick and all the drippings.

For years, I had nightmares my water would break out of pity for the poor pig and they would just throw me into the adjoining pen. Toss me some fresh hay and change the lens of the camera to a wider view for KARE 11.

Maybe I would get a dairy sponsor to pay for the ambulance ride afterwards.
Someone might raffle off the nearest seat to the smudged railing.

Or let the spectators vote on the baby’s name. I’d end up the happy mother of “Cheese Curd Curt” or “Sweet Martha Mabel.” Or Bessie. Bessie was on the fear list.

Of course, the fair offers some prime people watching too and, I dare say, this might make the larger impression of the the two.

“I told you I should have worn my fairy wings, Mommy.”

“We don’t wear costumes to the fair.”

“Everyone else is in costume.”


“The cowgirls. The cowboys. Look at that guy over there with the butt-less pants.”

Yes, LOOK at him. A brave fellow indeed.

And I always thought chaps went on OVER another layer of pants. Well, what do I know? I guess wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with time. Or exposure.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a stout believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy. She never takes the last slice of pie and makes a mean brandy slush. Visit Chronicles of a CaveMom at to read more of Marny’s work.