I’ve recently returned from a trip down south. Douglas, to be specific. It’s Wyoming State Fair time, and my boys were fortunate enough to have had a great Sheridan County Fair, so we joined the parade of livestock trailers down the interstate.
As I was musing on the subject for this column, I couldn’t help but be struck by a few of the highlights of the trip and how they fit so well with a couple of my favorite inspirational quotes. Bear with me because, as usual, this may only make sense to a treasured few.
There was a lot of downtime at the fair because our stuff didn’t start for a couple days, so I wandered around unattended. Monday morning featured the dog show. I’m a dog person, so it was an incredibly fun experience to see all those kids and their dogs. And what dogs they were! I saw it all. Small terriers, giant mastiffs, a variety of herding dogs as you’d imagine and every size, shape and color in between. It was obvious that some of the dogs really got it and their people had been working with them assiduously. Others, er, not so much. The agility contests were fun to watch but they couldn’t hold a candle to the obedience trials. Friends, that was the best laugh I’ve had in awhile.
The seniors had done the short-term stay commands, but then it was time for the serious work. The test that shows if the dogs would stay for at least 5 minutes while their child disappears from their view was a riot. It made me think of the phrase, “lead from where you stand.” In this case, it was more like lead from where you sit. Or don’t. The Lab, Corgi and Australian Shepherd missed the stay memo. They followed their child right out of the ring. Dang.
The remaining two were a Malinois (looks kind of like a German Shepherd) and a Border Collie. Immediately, it was obvious that the Malinois was conflicted. He understood he was meant to stay, but why stay when nearly everyone else had sold out? When his person had disappeared? And so he decided to compromise with a kind of soldier crawl using only his front legs to drag himself across the grass toward the direction of his child. He was clearly hoping the judges wouldn’t notice and avoided all eye contact with them. The Border Collie just laid there looking bored and smug. She was easily embodying the quote, “I will persist until I succeed.”
As entertaining as the dog shows were, they were left in the dust next to the static exhibits created by the 4-H and FFA members. The absolute high point for me was the taxidermy category. This is unexpected because I generally consider taxidermy useful only as the safest way to pet a moose’s nose. First there was the standing duck. It seemed to have a very painful crick in its neck. Then there was the dodgy fox. It was curled up, and its fur looked a bit, well, wavy. But they could not compete against the rockchuck. Also known as a marmot, this rockchuck was positioned in what I would call a shoulder mount near a rock. It was strategic that they went that route instead of the typical full body option because there was nothing left of the marmot south of the shoulders. Yep, just air. I surmised that the rest of the marmot was lost to a .50 caliber weapon or similar, which means that the enterprising youth was following one of my all-time and oft-used quotes from Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
Did he ever. It was a masterpiece. And it won Grand Champion Reserve! Behind the dodgy fox, amazingly. I was so hoping they’d put it in the silent auction so I could have the Most Amazing White Elephant Gift Ever. No such luck.
Having made it this far in the column, I can only conclude with my mantra for you – no good deed goes unpunished.
Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.