Stay-At-Home Dad: A ‘fair’ job of parenting byfolks with agricultural roots
BY HOWARD A. LUDWIG September 12, 2013 10:46AM
Peter Ludwig visits a livestock pen at the Sandwich Fair in DeKalb County. | Howard A. Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:14AM
The Wife and I were frequent visitors to the county fair as children.
Until last week, I wasn’t sure our city kids would even enjoy the fair.
The Wife raised champion rabbits for the fair as a member of 4-H. I grew up on a hog farm. I never showcased anything at a fair, but my family frequently visited these celebrations of agricultural life. I spent lots of time in the livestock barns as well as in the grandstands cheering at tractor pulls.
Our two sons have no direct connection to farm life. We live on Chicago’s Southwest Side. From Bubba and Peter’s bedroom window, they hear city buses roaring down Western Avenue and the occasional police siren. We don’t even have a dog.
I have no regrets about raising city kids. They seem to be coming along just fine. I simply wondered if their life experience would leave them feeling indifferent about the fair. The best way to find out was to pack the minivan and visit the Sandwich Fair in DeKalb County.
We arrived early Sunday morning, just as a judge began selecting the fair’s best hogs. We sat down to watch the competition. My 5- and 7-year-old sons weren’t particularly interested. Then again, listening to someone point out the finer qualities of a heavyweight barrow is rather dull.
We moved on to the heavy equipment. To my surprise, the boys eagerly sat behind the wheel of almost every tractor at the fair. I happily followed. I reminisced as my sons sat on antique tractors — the kinds of models I once drove — and stood in awe of new tractors, many with price tags that rivaled the cost of my house.
Lunchtime included several staples of a county fair. Bubba and Peter ate giant corn dogs. I devoured two delicious pork chops and washed it down with a lemon shake-up. Later that afternoon, everyone shared a funnel cake. (It’s truly amazing how much this deliciously bad food can cost.)
With our bellies full, we wandered into an area packed with some of the first farming machines. My city boys sat mesmerized as belt-driven antiques shelled corn and baled hay. Peter even asked questions of the overall-clad men operating these early machines.
“Ohhhh, I get it,” he said as the corn-stripping process was explained.
We made our way quickly through the maze of carnival rides and games of chance. I spent just under $20 on these attractions, including giving each of the boys a chance to shoot automatic air rifles. We walked away with a pair of light-up swords. Everyone seemed satisfied.
We ended our day watching a draft horse pull competition. It’s a lot like tractor pulls — only rather than wide-tired machines blowing thick, black smoke, giant horses drag implausible amounts of weight a designated distance.
My jaw dropped as a team of two mammoth horses pulled a truck weighed down with more than 3,000 pounds roughly 15 yards.
The boys were fading fast at this point. So we left after the first round, though the horse-pulling competition was the highlight of the trip for me.
Peter fell asleep on the way home. Bubba stared out the window with tired, glassy eyes. They both had a blast at the fair, despite their urban upbringing.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The boys also like the zoo, and we don’t live in the jungle either.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.