Pie was not the only thing being judged at the Iowa State Fair. In between rounds of pie tasting I wandered over to the cattle barn, a place I clearly had a fascination with since I went there three times and always had a hard time extracting myself from the place. Inside the barn the smell was earthy, the mooing a soothing sound, the place full of life, breath, hay and...yes, manure.Even more fascinating was how the owners of the show cows slept in the barn with their animals! There were cots and bedrolls right there in the animal stalls. This is not something you see every day. I mean, I've never known a baker to sleep next to their pie. But like I said, the place didn't smell bad, though it didn't exactly smell like an apple pie baking in the oven.I learned a lot while strolling up and down the cow-filled aisles. By the way, this is no zoo, there are no barriers keeping you at a safe distance from the animals. Here you could get so close you could lay down and cuddle with a cow if you felt so inclined. But I did not.This is what I learned from talking to a man who was washing down his cow with a hose:
"Are you getting him ready to show?" I asked.
"No, we just showed him. I'm washing off the hairspray," he said.
Hairspray??!! There are two reasons for this, depending on the breed and what characteristics are being judged. In one case it is used to smooth down the cow's hair to help accentuate the bone structure and muscles. In the other it keeps the cow's hair fluffed up and makes the animal look fatter, impressing the judges. The cows get pedicures too, their hooves filed to perfection and oiled to look extra shiny and healthy.Before the showing and after the post-show shower the cows get blow dried. Man, these are some very pampered cows!When it's show time, the cows get led from the cattle barn...To the arena...Once inside the arena the cows wait...Until their turn in front of the judges...The man below in the cowboy hat is a judge. I wonder if he enjoys scrutinizing cows as much as I enjoy tasting different pies! I didn't dare lean across the railing to ask him. He looked very serious about his job. And well he should as the prize money is in the quadruple digits.Prizes are awarded...Sometimes by young women wearing tiaras...All that animal care is exhausting...but, presumably, well worth it.
Have I mentioned how much I love the Iowa State Fair?! My dad, pegging me for a big city girl, told me I should never marry a farmer. But I think he was wrong. I want move to a cattle farm now, milk the cows at dawn, maybe even bathe and blow-dry them, bake pies, and live happily ever after in Iowa.
Oh dear, have I swallowed some kind of Iowa Kool-Aid?! What was in that pie I ate?