a harrowing goat experience

Precious Readers, do you remember when you were a youngster? About knee-high to a pig’s eye? Well, while prepping a pork pot roast in my slow cooker for dinner, I was reminded of small farm animals. (I don’t know what that says about my personality, but I’m sure it’s abnormal.)

I began thinking about the different county fairs that Washington State has. I’m not sure of all of the fairs that occur throughout the year, but in summer, two of the Washington state biggies are the Evergreen State Fair, featured in Pilot’s hometown of Monroe for the North-enders, and the Puyallup fair for the South-enders.

Funny city name, Puyallup, isn’t it? Nine times out of ten, people mispronounce this, though to be fair, Pacific Northwest Native Americans (Indigenous People?) make the spelling a bit difficult. On second thought, I’ve heard people mispronounce Monroe as well.

Let’s do this together, shall we?

MONROE = (mun-ROW)
That’s right. “mun-” not (mon-)

PUYALLUP = (pyoo-AL-up)
NOT: (“pyoo-lee-ap”), nor (“puh-yah-lup”), nor (“poo-ee-yalp”)

Back to the story.

I remember being around five years old, and sitting in the car, driving the hour and a half to get from northern WA to Puyallup (again, say it with me, “pyoo-AL-up”). Parking our car probably a good half mile from the entrance. My legs sticking to the seat from the heat of the sun, as I peeled my t-shirt and short-ed person from the family vehicle to walk, and walk, and walk, across a field of dead grass to enter the fair.

The roller coasters roaring in the distance, the sound of people talking over each other, being bumped and pulled in one direction and then the next, the sweet scent of funnel cakes and cotton candy everywhere. Nothing was ever frustratingly annoying as getting to and from the fair, and nothing was like the overload of fun, joy, and excitement of being at the fair.

We spent our time walking through all of the vendors, checking out their wares, buying some newfangled cleaning product. We weaved our way through to the live animal section to see the quiet, lazy, giant pigs. Then we’d move to the tall standing cows gently chewing on their cud. Stand in fright of the gigantic horses and their powerful legs.

Then, came the petting zoo area. We were able to hold bunnies, chickens, etc. I wasn’t specifically able to. My allergies prevented me from being around hay for too long before I began stuffing up, eyes watering, sneezing, coughing, and airways constricting.

As we were leaving the area, I noticed a sign that read, “Milk a Goat.” Well, I was delighted to find out this experience was not only available, but FREE! (Much to the delight of my parents, as well.) Well, my parents being people who spent their own childhoods on farms, thought this would be a great experience for their suburban daughter.

The chance to milk a goat? Yea! I thought.

The thing, Precious Readers, that you must understand, is that my parents weren’t great at explaining situations to manage expectations. In today’s world, if I’m overly cautious to over-inform you about details for an upcoming experience, it’s due to this often missing piece of information my parents often neglected to share with me, producing confusing, awkward, funny situations.

Being five years old, a majority of leaning what “should be” for any activity, either came from school, family and friends, or TV. My idea of “milking a goat” was translated to feeding a goat a bottle of milk, as I’d seen on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and other pre-pubescent programs. My parents, again raised on farms, thought nothing of this experience as negative, but hadn’t made the connection that their suburban daughter might not exactly know what actual milking a goat entailed.

You can imagine my complete surprise when after waiting what seemed like forever in line, a gruff handsome woman (yes, handsome woman), had me dunk my hands in a bucket of some foul, sour smelling liquid.

That’s… weird, I thought.

I asked the manly woman why I had to do this. She explained it was to prevent germs. At that point in my life, I hadn’t heard of vinegar being a sterilizer. (It was the late 80’s, early 90’s, so homes were pumped full of spray chemicals to whisk bacteria away, versus the more biodegradable and earth friendly products we have now.) I wasn’t about to question this person who stood a good several feet taller than me, looming with her scowl and dirty overalls.

I was lightly pushed to another line of children, each of us bearing the foul stench of acid as we waited to see the oh, so cute goat.

Its tail was just off in the distance, a whole three kids between us. I heard its little collar bell jingling.

And then… the sound. As I waited my turn and got closer to the goat, I heard an odd, piercing, metallic sound. Like a coin rolling on its side along a piece of hollow metal.

That doesn’t sound like a goat sucking on a bottle of milk, I thought. I imagined it would sound more like a squeaking sound.

Then, it was my turn to enter the area. You can imagine my horror when I saw someone sitting on a box at the… What in the world is that? I thought. I didn’t know goats had udders like a cow!

The man gestured for me to come over and stand next to him. He was also in dirty overalls sitting on a wooden crate at the midsection of a goat. WAIT A SECOND! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

They were squeezing the udder-thingy of a goat! Just like a cow!

Oh, the fear, and confusion as I was instructed to squeeze what seemed to be a delicate part of this wee little goat!

Oh poor goat! I thought. They mixed you with a cow! Who was the mom? Was the mom the goat or the cow? All sorts of other random thoughts of trying to figure out how this poor, uddered goat came to be!

I squeezed the udder and milk went into the bucket, revealing the truth behind the odd sound I’d heard only seconds later.

Finally, after (extremely unsuccessfully attempted) milking the goat, I was shuffled off back to my awaiting parents, where they asked me how it went.

Confusion swirled around my five-year old brain, as I merely peeped out, “I didn’t get to pet the goat. They wouldn’t let me feed it.”

My parents just said that was normal, and we continued to toddle through the rest of the fair.

It would be another year before I fully recognized what had happened.

After comprehending the situation, I later just told myself to stick to the petting zoo. With a face mask.

What memories do you have of your young self discovering something new?

Do you have any funny stories about misunderstandings that your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews experienced?

What were some of your favorite things about your local county fairs?