Food for Thought

by Eric Hamilton

As the Missouri State Fair is currently underway, I have decided to compile a list of some of my favorite things to do—both in the past and at present—at the fair.
The Art Show is always worth a visit; of course, maybe my tastes are a bit mamby-hoity (or is it pamby-toity?) compared to yours. There’s always a nice assortment of paintings, photographs and sculpture. My uncle frequently exhibits steel butterflies that he welds. Once at the art-exhibit, I bought a sketch of a doll in a rocking-chair because it reminded me of my mother, and later I gave her that sketch for her birthday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation ‘Highway Gardens’ are a nice place to sit and read or write with a laptop computer. There are picnic tables beneath the feathery-green boughs of tall cypresses, and a long, greenish pool where brightly colored koi-fish glide silently among lily-pads that form stepping-stones on the surface. The paved walkway passes beneath an arbor where visitors’ footsteps echo softly through the whispering green tunnel of vegetation. Flowers of all types bloom here, and fat, gold-banded bees descend into the welcoming blossoms.
Avert your eyes from the birds and the bees! That’s nature’s porn!
If big fish interest you, the Conservation Commission always has an impressive aquarium next door—but maybe you shouldn’t be too impressed. It’s no accident that the glass of the aquarium is a magnifying lens, so that ‘catfish in mirror are smaller than they appear’. This place was always a must-see for my grandfather—not because of the fish, but because he always wanted to bait and harass the conservation agents for the appalling way that they manage the deer-population in this state. Missouri is one big deer-farm!
The heart of the fair, for me, is, of course, the cattle-barns—where I spent most of my time when I showed Angus cattle. If you ever wonder why the bull in your herd looks the way that he does, this is where the trends, right or wrong, all start. Personally, I miss the days when a grown man could walk up to an Angus bull and have trouble seeing over the top of that bull! People who worry about calving problems claim that big bulls produce calves that are too big for the cows to have. But big cows can have big calves.
I believe that the pig-races are now held next-door to the Angus barn. Smart little piglets race around a saw-dust strewn oval track—running not ‘for the roses’, but for a cookie: one ‘Pig Newton’. I’m sure one of those pigs will be somehow named after Donald Trump this year. Cancel your angry letters to the editor—the racing pigs are ALWAYS named after current political figures. One of my favorite pig-names of old was ‘Swillary Rod-Ham Clinton’.
There are two discontinued features of the fair that I dearly miss. First, there was the Missouri Soybean Association’s donut-stand, where you could watch the donuts being fried on a largely automated ‘donut assembly-line’. It was fun to watch the donuts ‘being born’, and this was fortunate—because the lines were long. It turns out that donuts fried in soy-oil and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar are very good, and people flocked to the stand. I believe that may have been how visitors to the fair were counted back then—with the question: ‘How many people waited in line for donuts?’
I sorely miss that place.
Perhaps the most grievous loss to Missouri art and culture, however, was the loss of the ‘Butter Cow’. And yes, I know—there technically still is a refrigerated butter-sculpture of a cow at the dairy producers’ ice-cream parlor, but it looks like a cartoon. Twenty-or-so years ago, however, the sculpture was a true work of art, done by a lady whom I believe is now deceased. You just haven’t lived until you’ve seen a life-sized Guernsey shaped out of butter, its butter hip-bones jutting out in stark relief, the butter hairs of its tail-switch visible even at a distance. The particular sculpture that I recall also featured a butter cat that crouched behind the cow—a cat which I originally mistook to be…well, a heap of something not at all…feline.
Wouldn’t THAT be an interesting thing to trowel out of a pound of butter?