The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Fairgoers take walk on the country side
BY CATHY DYSON
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Children aren’t the only ones who gravitate toward animals at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair.
On Saturday, Dale Webster had a staring contest with a rooster in the poultry barn. The Marine, who’s from San Diego and stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, eyeballed a number of chickens, but said most were too beady-eyed to hold his gaze.
The proud-looking Delaware rooster, a white bird with flecks of black on its neck and a brilliant red comb on its head, was different. As Webster leaned close to the cage, the rooster held his stare for 30 seconds or so, then looked away.
“I think I made him nervous,” Webster joked.
Marines weren’t the only ones with an eye for the feathered and furry at the fair, which prides itself on its agricultural roots.
Joan and Tom Mannion of Locust Grove lingered at the free petting zoo, provided by Rockin A Ranch of Concord, N.C., longer than any children. He complimented Gerald Almond on the great looks and gentle nature of the unusual animals.
“And you have a porcupine?” Joan Mannion asked. “How can you have a porcupine?”
Almond told her that specimen—which stays in a cage, out of human reach—is probably the most easygoing animal on the lot. It eats anything, he said, meat or vegetables, bones, wood or fruit.
Porcupines shoot their quills at offenders only in the movies and cartoons, he said. The quills are loosely attached and do come off at the slightest touch, but the animal can’t fire them at anybody, Almond said.
In pens around the porcupine were an exotic menagerie that even adults had trouble recognizing.
Jessica and Alex Espinoza of Fredericksburg led their 4-year-old twins, Aiden and Naomi, through the barn. Dad carried a $2 cup of treats, which his kids fed to goats, sheep and Indu–Brazilian cattle—animals with ears as floppy as a basset hound’s.
“You guys wanna go see—I’m not sure what this is over there—a cow maybe? And something else?” the dad said.
What looked like a cow with long black hair was a yak. Beside it stood a water buffalo, the same kind that Crocodile Dundee hypnotized in one of his movies.
In barns with better-known animals, visitors were equally enchanted.
Tommy Hughes, 23, and his mother, Lisa, came from Fairfax just to see the the cows, Tommy’s particular obsession.
He walked through the barn, videotaping the Holstein and Guernsey cattle around him.
Ward Weberg of King George led his three children through straw-covered rows dotted with cow pies. “It’s nice to get out of the city and get back to the country a little bit,” he said.
Actually, there are a lot of visitors who are unfamiliar with the rural vistas the fair offers.
“You get a lot of people who have never seen a cow before,” said Chris Branson, who watched over the Black Angus cattle from his Misty Meadows Farm in Hanover.
He answered a lot of the same questions: What do cows eat? Do they bite? How many babies can they have?
The question asked most often was about Lassie, a 4-year-old female who deserved to be called a cow. She weighs about 1,850 pounds.
“People want to know if she’s a bull because she’s so big,” Branson said.
Branson chatted freely—and politely—as did Amber Beasley, 13, of Hanover who started off a conversation with: “Are you enjoying yourself at the fair?”
Amber had a display “The Three Sheepateers,” a trio of Suffolk sheep named Michael, Angel and Rachel. Only two of the three were able to make it to the fair.
Justin and Lori Govar of Stafford County admitted they’re suburbanites who usually see cows in fields along the road or in the picture books they read to their sons, Ethan, 4, and Nicholas, 2.
They used the visit to the fair as a teaching tool, but not in the usual way.
Nicholas stood in front of a row of black calves and pointed when one of them suddenly relieved himself on the ground.
“See, he doesn’t know how to use the potty, either,” the mom said.
Turning to the person beside her, the mother said about Nicholas: “I’m trying to potty train him, so I figured why not?”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425