Column: Life on the farm in my imagination

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on July 14, 2009

The Kane County Fair begins today, and I plan to head to the fairgrounds a few times this week.

This will be my first county fair, and my expectations are straight out of “Charlotte’s Web” – Ferris wheels, animal judging and plenty of carnival food. And I must say, if I don’t see “SOME PIG,” I’m going to be greatly disappointed.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve never been to a county fair before. But despite being from southern Indiana, I simply haven’t had much experience with farm life.

This always came as quite the shock to kids I met in Florida during the summers I spent there visiting with my dad.

It wasn’t hard for Florida kids to tell my brother and I weren’t from the land of orange trees, alligators and butterfly ballots. Our accent gave us away every time. And a summer didn’t pass when at least a dozen kids asked us where we were from.

Indiana, we would tell them, thinking that should solve the problem and that we all could get back to our rousing game of wall ball – a painful activity involving a kickball, soccer ball or tennis ball, a brick wall and an elementary school version of a firing squad. It was, in essence, a game only boys could come up with and love.

However, the game would have to be paused while the other kids looked at us in wonder for a few seconds as if we were aliens, or maybe more appropriately, cows that aliens had abducted from a small farm in Indiana.

Then a barrage of questions would fly at us about what it was like to live on a farm. It was essentially a verbal form of wall ball.

Do you have pigs? What crops do you grow? Do you have to go to the bathroom outside?

My brother and I spent the school year in Evansville, Ind., a large city on the Kentucky border with a population of almost 125,000, a metropolitan population of almost 350,000 and seven high schools. I don’t remember seeing a single farm within city limits, and we seldom left the city. I can’t even remember visiting a farm growing up.

Needless to say, we left the Florida kids underwhelmed with our explanation that we lived much the same way they did. We even went to the bathroom indoors.

I always kind of wished that I could have told those kids what farm life was like – what it was like to own a pig or harvest corn or wake up before the sun came up.

And while I know visiting the Kane County Fair won’t give me the type of experience I need to tell those sorts of stories, maybe it will shed a little bit of light on farm life for me.

And who knows? Maybe when I go back down to Florida and visit my little cousins, I can tell teach them a thing or two about farm life. Yeah, that would be nice. And I’m sure their mother would like that a lot more than the last thing I taught them – but, really, every little boy should know how to play wall ball.

Joe Grace is the editor of The Chronicle. You can write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

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