A Fryeburg Fair Fable


Pigs can see in a 300 degree radius, which increases their panoramic vision but decreases their bifocal vision.  In short, they can see the world around them, but not too far down the road. 

We have come to the Fryeburg agricultural fair, driving through a string of small Maine towns with names plucked from other places; Cornish, Limerick and Hiram.  The towns sprung up at the confluence of the Ossippee and Saco rivers hundreds of years ago and to my eyes appear relatively unchanged. Grassy green hills with white clapboard churches, their crumbling cemeteries filled with original settlers, rest beneath blue skies heavy with the scent of pine and pitch. I can’t help but wonder how they got here or for that matter, how I did. 

By artificially increasing the light--for instance using electric lights in the stable it is possible to begin the breeding season in a mare.  Given the right amount of light, mares become irresistible.

The descendants of those original settlers join us on this bright October day, ambling through dusty hay barns and gravel paths.  Teenage boys, full of swagger, wearing bright green John Deere baseball caps and camo jackets pretend not to notice girls in skinny blue jeans and tank tops running their fingers through long gossamer strands of hair while glancing over their shoulders. I look sideways at Paul and think about that cold November night; our first kiss among the banks of snow under the parking lot light.

The best cows give over twenty five gallons of milk each day.  One gallon of milk weighs over eight pounds.  It takes twelve pounds of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.

The crispy scent of fried dough and the sweet smell of boiled down maple sap from the sugar house mingle in the air.   Paul buys me a sticky, crumbly apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream and offers my stepson Nick a box of fudge.  Beanie opts to eat nothing and I worry.  I still remember the time late at night when her insulin pod malfunctioned.  Paul drove the 180 mile round trip to Boston to retrieve another pod at two AM when the other one malfunctioned, no complaints and nothing but smiles.

A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-600 miles away from its home and still return within the day.  Feral pigeons mate for life

I slow down my pace and drift behind Paul and the kids, watching the dust rise up from their shuffling feet. They move slowly as a group, each one seeming to have the innate sense of where the other one is.  And then like the dust, I find myself floating among the crowd.  If I were to rise up high enough I might look down and see the road we took today and floating higher still I’d see the highway connecting Maine to Boston and beyond that the highways south. 

Nick tugs my shirt, pulling me back to Earth.

“You scared me Billy, I thought we lost you,” he says.

“Not a chance," I say.  

I may not know what lies down the road, but I know which one will bring me home.



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