(I’m headed to the Pennsylvania Farm Show today, the first time since Dick Thornburgh was governor of the Commonwealth. And if you’re not from Pennsylvania, you’ll just have to Google it to see how long ago that was. I’m scared, because the last time, I went… well, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out. This piece first appeared in the Jan. 23, 1986, Farm and Dairy. And I’ll give you all an update next week, on how it went this time around!)
I got lost at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Yes, I’ll admit it. This was my first visit to the Farm Show, and I got lost. Twenty-three times.
Oh, I started out on the right track. The Farm and Dairy advertising manager took me by the hand and guided me through the maze of exhibits and displays, past rows of livestock pens, to the large arena. There, she sat me in the stands, patted my head and said, “Remember, we want to meet at the door where we entered at 4 o’clock.”
Then she abandoned me.
Well, I knew I wouldn’t be able to use my 62 rolls of film sitting in the large arena, especially since it was empty when Gretchen deserted me, so I set off to discover America.
I knew I was lost when I kept returning to the poultry room — six times in 45 minutes. I felt like a lost hunter without a compass, circling the same landmark — in my case, chickens. Loud, squawking chickens.
Trying to remain calm, I walked up and down the rows of poultry cages, tapping out S.O.S. with my footsteps.
I finally spied a co-worker and begged him to take me away from those noisy barnyard fowl. Please, please, I pleaded, get me out of here. Take me to the sheep.
Ah, yes, the sheep. I got lost there, too.
But as a suave, sophisticated member of the press, I decided not to risk embarrassment by asking directions. But, just the same, I received pitying looks from the folks whose Suffolk entries I kept passing. Nonchalantly, I pretended sincere interest in the sheet-covered sheep until the owner asked me why I found her ewe’s derriere so fascinating.
Mortified, I fled back to the poultry room and spent the better part of the day watching little chicks being hatched. Even the young children began to stare.
I guess it was late afternoon when a Penn State student volunteer found me huddled against the wall behind some turkey pens. She must have noted my dazed look when she started giving me directions, for she took my hand and led be past the jeering Leghorn pullets and steered me to the entrance where my fellow F&D staff members were waiting — along with a scowling publisher.
By the end of my two-day sojourn at the show, I appeared the confident veteran — even offering directions to people wandering aimlessly in the concourse surrounding the large arena. Yes, I gave directions — then sprinted like Jesse Owens as soon as they headed toward the poultry room.
Upon my return to the Farm and Dairy, my editor demanded to see my written accounts of Farm Show activity. I still can’t understand why he started weeping softly as he leafed through my 15-page documentary on the life and times of a Farm Show chicken.