Writing a column just before Thanksgiving, when the driving trip and the family feast has not yet begun, is a hard time in my writing life. This is true especially since the column needs to be written quite early to meet the holiday deadline.
What happened this year that stayed in my thoughts and made me smile?
Animals' antics were the first thing that popped into my mind - things that made me laugh while going to the various fairs, a church holiday production or just watching Ozzie, our dog that comes up with some silly antics at times.
LUNCH TIME? — Clash Zimmer holds the mom goat of her sister, Rachel, who won many awards at the Jefferson County Fair. The young goat seems to think it is time for lunch.
-- Esther McCoy
CLOSE CALL — Matthew McCoy pets the ram that he was required to lead around in the Living Christmas Tree production at the Worthington Grace Brethren Church. He played a shepherd and sometimes had a hard time getting the animal to move. Another time it apparently got upset over his duties and nearly butted Matthew off the stage.
-- Esther McCoy
MOTIVATED — Oreo cookies are the stimulus needed to get the piggies “off to the races” at the Harrison County Fair. There were races held several times each day, and the cookies were the incentive to run.
-- Esther McCoy
HITCHING A RIDE — A pony was gallantly pulling a well dressed young lady around in a cart at the Jefferson County Fair parade.
-- Esther McCoy
OZZIE — Ozzie, who has been a part of our family since 2007, guards his play toys. He will give up a ball to be tossed to him to catch, and he is pretty good at it. He was first a visitor at our house when Dinar, Missy, Jackson and Maggie, his previous owners, went on vacation. He liked it so much, though, he came to stay and has been driving me out of the house for at least one walk every day.
-- Esther McCoy
I'm sure that everyone knows by now that Ozzie is the very lively, Jack Russell terrier that we inherited from our son, Darin. He was house broken, gently took food from your hand when you wanted to personally to give him a treat, sat up and shook paws on demand, would go straight to the bathroom and jump into the tub when told he needed a bath and seemed to know when you didn't feel good and would lay down with his head on your thigh and give soulful glances in your direction occasionally.
All those things are all well and good, but we have never been able to break him of jumping on anyone who came to our door. He isn't very tall but like Superman, "he can leap tall buildings in a single bound - a bit of an exaggeration, but if he isn't grabbed and indignantly led to another room when someone comes in the door, he scares a few people.
I have read that you should just turn your back on a jumping dog, but this doesn't work. You can expect the strike of doggy paws on your back as well. So Ozzie is led to the bedroom where the loop on his leash is slid over the iron bed post, and he is tethered for a time.
Ozzie has a certain dignity about him and gets very embarrassed if he does something out of character. On our daily walks, he manages to get his leash tangled between his legs and will lift each leg until he gets untangled. We were on the hillside when he got hobbled and in the process of lifting a leg, he toppled over and rolled twice before coming to a stop. He got up, gave a shake and looked at me quite sheepishly, as if to say, "That was really dumb." But he did get his leg untangled in the process.
One evening on a bathroom break, he sniffed at a toad that was awaiting the visit of some bugs on the patio, as our outside light was lit. It moved a bit, and he jumped back as if he were shocked. I got one of those, "I did it again, didn't I?" looks.
I tied a Steelers scarf around his neck once. He didn't try to remove it but looked at Lamont with an air of apology, as if to say "She made me do it. I really like the Browns better."
Lamont and I got many laughs when we watched the Harrison County Fair piggie race. Cute little piglets, wearing numbered jackets in various colors, would come thundering out of the starting gate when the announcer said "... And they're off." They would slip and slide running around the track, and some would go tumbling and let out little squeals but would carry on.
I didn't realize that at the end of the competition, the winning piggie would be rewarded with Oreo cookies. I think they each received one after the competition was all over, but they ran like the wind to win one of the chocolate wafers filled with creamy icing as a reward.
Another interesting animal sight was to see a young lad riding about on a mid-size camel in a fenced off part of the Harrison Country Fair midway. This went along with the piggie races and a petting zoo that was held. A young zebu in the petting zoo was bringing many questions about its origin.
To ride a camel, you have to sort of roll with each step, like riding in a boat. I know this personally. I took a dare and rode one at the Living Christmas Tree production that Jay and his family take part in at the Worthington Grace Brethern Church once. Camels are very wide and with short legs like mine, so feet do not always reach the stirrups.
Regarding the LCT holiday production, a funny event happened one Christmas season when our grandson, Matthew, portrayed a shepherd.
The production was put on for seven or eight evenings and on one of the occasions, the ram did not feel like walking down the church aisle and standing at attention beside his shepherd caretaker. When Matthew turned his back for a second, he found himself nearly knocked off the stage by a playful or stressed-out head butt.
Another time the furry animal decided he needed a bathroom break at that exact moment and made a puddle on the stage. What was more distressing for the sheep herder, mainly Matthew, was that he was in his bare feet and had to step in it.
At the Jefferson County Fair, I saw two young goats head-butting each other even though a wire fence was between them. They seemed to be enjoying the game, but it would give me a bad headache.
Another Jefferson County Fair sight I remember is Rachel Zimmer of the Edison FFA bringing her large herd of goats out for a picture. All were winners in some category in the junior fair competition and open class, but there was not enough cooperation between goats to get a good picture. She quickly weeded out the mama goat and her young child that was trying to grab a little lunch on the run, and we got the shot.
Chelsea Zimmer, Rachel's sister, held the momma goat and, of course, the baby stayed where the food was located.
While roaming in the livestock barns at the fair, searching for some good feature shots, Mike McElwain spied two llama friends who looked like they were viewing us as the ones on display. And they didn't like our act for the day.
They can be very inquisitive, and I am told they like to spit.
Mike also photographed a litter of very young piglets through a board fence. He laid on his back on the ground to get the shot - something I couldn't do and be able to jump up with grace and style.
My last remembered animal sighting was of a young lady dressed in a flowered, cotton dress of the 1940s style, with lace trim on the sleeves and wearing a straw, flowered hat. She was holding tightly the reins of a well-groomed pony, pulling a passenger wagon in the Jefferson County Fair grand parade. Many 4-H clubs take a part in the event with floats, marching units and horse units.
I could almost picture the young lady guiding the cart setting off on a trip to the general store. While there, she purchases sugar, salt, flour and yards of fabric and a spool of thread to make a new dress. There might even be a bit of taffy or hard candy to take home to the children.
Most of the other food products, such as milk, cheese, butter, eggs and butchered meats, are produced on the farm.
That's my recollection of animals I remember most from the past year. Some made me laugh, some made me sentimental, and Matthew's dilema with the ram made me cry, as I realized he is growing old enough to be mortified if the two incidents happened now.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)