My daughter trains llamas.
She trains them for two categories of activity. To show (like a “dog show”) and to go through an obstacle course. She does this every week, all year long, and then goes to small 4H events to compete with other local llama trainers. She has done this for a few years now, and it had almost begun to feel… normal. That is, until this past week when we decided to enter her into a competition at a very large state fair called the “Eastern States Exposition” (aka. “The Big E”). It was during these two days that I learned just how different I am than the typical state fair… fare.
I think the first clue should have been the laptops. I brought two (naturally).
When we arrived, I wasted no time and set up a small wireless network for my son and I to use, and we almost immediately began playing a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) which we played for as long as we could before our legs went numb from sitting in those crappy folding chairs that seem to be specifically designed to completely cut off the circulation in both thighs.
We were like a little oasis of technology adrift in a sea of llamas. We were set up on a hay-covered floor in-between two llama pens in a giant building filled with livestock of all varieties. Our choice of location was made purely based upon the fact that this spot actually had a power outlet. In hindsight, however, despite it’s ready source of power, our choice of basecamp may have been less than ideal (see diagram below).
Llamas are deceptive creatures when it comes to their feces. They don’t make big sloppy messes like cows do, just a small pile of pellets, almost like a timid little bunny. But I would estimate that they expel waste about once every 30 seconds, and the accompanying cloud of noxious gas that comes along with these pellets has a scent which is not entirely unlike being punched in the nostrils with an icepick.
To add insult to injury, the lovely creature pictured to the right seemed to think my laptop power cord tasted like licorice because he started happily chewing on it when I was away for a few minutes. Luckily my wife caught him and moved the cable, otherwise I would have had to open a BBQ’d Llama booth.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there were llamas in both of these pens that were for sale. and we were constantly interrupted from our gaming by the seemingly endless stream of toothless hicks that had come to the fair purely to fulfill their instinctive need to eat fried balls of butter. Although it was abundantly clear that they had no ability, or intention to actually purchase a llama, they were all desperate to know how much they cost. Given our “prime” location, in their tiny little brains we were clearly the ones who possessed this knowledge that they so greatly desired.
After about the fourth time I got tired of explaining that I wasn’t the owner of these llamas and that I had no clue how much they cost, and I just started responding with things like “about fifty grand” and “how much you got?”. I even told one man that I would consider trading one for his daughter and two mature goats (he declined).
About the only advantage of our position was the fact that we were pretty close to the arena where the competition was going on, so we could clearly hear everything the judge was saying about the llamas in each round, but we were far enough away from him that he couldn’t hear my comments…
Judge: Up next we will be the class 6 Suri Wool Yearling Males
Me: Fantastic. It’s about damn time.
Judge: I bet you are wondering why I started with class 5.
Me: Honestly? It was friggin’ killing me. I was thinking “Starting with class 5 llamas? It’s like a world gone mad!”
This was amusing for a while (at least to me), but eventually the “charm” of our little camp wore off and we decided to take a break from gaming until we could feel our legs again, so we packed things up and moved to bleachers around the arena to watch the show.
It was like I took a rocket to a different planet. Now that I was paying full attention to the competition I realized, more with every passing minute, just how differently I was wired than these folks. For example, I personally derived a great deal of amusement from the judging and specifically… the judge himself (pictured left). I would swear to you on a stack of Bibles that he spent a solid five minutes discussing one llama’s testicles. The fact that the judge was an older gentleman with a stern look about him just added to the comedic affect.
Judge: The reason I put this llama in second place is that I really didn’t like the look of his testicles. One is hanging a little lower than the other.
At this point I was in the bleachers, barely able to contain my bubbling mirth. But, when I looked around me to find someone else to share this absurdity with I found that they were all nodding knowingly as if to say “Yeah, I saw that too. Those testicles just aren’t right.”.
I think that was about the time I decided that I needed to leave this place before my brain imploded. By the end of our stay, I was thoroughly ready to go home to hide away in my fortress of digital solitude.
I think that, perhaps, in time I might grow to enjoy at least some portions of the fair. I mean, it has the kind of food that you wouldn’t dare eat without the aid of a “spotter” armed with a defibrillator and that, at least, is right up my alley. But for now I think I will just categorize it as “an experience”.