You Ohioans probably know, or remember when, the Ohio State Fair was a big honkin’ deal. Former Gov. Jim Rhodes, a country boy from down Jackson County way, purely loved it, and used it as a platform for publicity, every single year.
He would personally attend the livestock auction in the fair’s last days, not actually doing the patter but cheerleading the bidding, which set new sale price records every year. The papers ran photos of all the winners and their bids, which were astronomical. I think I’ve told this story, but here it goes again: After Rhodes left office, there was some pushback on the higher-every-year thing. Rhodes always framed it as “you’re helping send a farm kid to college,” or at least helping him or her with a down payment on their own spread, but one year the seller of the grand champion beef steer took his mid-five-figure sum and spent it on a new pickup truck with all the shit on it. This displeased the buyer (usually Wendy’s). Some time after that, another high-dollar steer went to slaughter and, when the hide was stripped off the animal, globs of silicone gel fell out, touching off a cheating scandal in the formerly all-good-news arena of the country’s biggest state fair.
(Yeah, I know, Texas blah blah. I don’t believe it.)
Prices dropped sharply thereafter. :::touches earpiece::: Wait, I have a correction to make. Prices seem to have risen again. This year’s grand champion steer — always the highest-priced animal in the sale — was sold for $225,000 and HOLY SHITBALLS that’s a lot of money for some hamburgers. It sold to a Volvo dealer, too. Huh. Well, that doesn’t contradict everything above, although clearly prices didn’t stay low forever.
All of this is getting to the story I was leading up to, about the year a girl brought her lamb into the ring and started to cry. The lamb bleated and nuzzled her hand, and every time it did, she cried harder. She knew what fate awaited her pretty, prize-winning lamby, and the governor stopped the auction and made a speech. “This lamb was raised by this girl from the minute it hit the ground, and she loves it like a pet,” he said, along with something else to the effect that he expected whoever won the bid to respect that. The gavel fell, and the buyer announced he was immediately giving the lamb back to the girl. There was lots of cheering and hugging. This touched off a cascade of charity, and at the end, everyone had spent a lot of money and every kid was taking their animal or animals back home. (Where, I have to think, almost every single one was immediately sold again, to a slaughterhouse.)
At the time I thought this was a sweet story, and told it to a 4-H official in Indiana, after I moved there. His brow furrowed. That was absolutely, positively the wrong thing for the governor to do, as well as everyone else, he said. Farm kids know what animals are raised for, even sweet fluffy lambs, and that’s what the competition is all about — not the cutest lamb, but the meatiest, the best conformation, the highest potential return on investment, which is, after all, what keeps a farm paying its bills. Click the link and take a look at that quarter-million-dollar steer, and you’ll see that is no typical farm-field specimen.
And now, more than 500 words into it, we get to the story of Cedar the goat, as told by the New York Times.
Cedar also had a sentimental owner, a California girl under the age of 10, perhaps not cut out for a farming career:
She fed him twice a day and walked him everywhere, often on a leash, like a puppy, (Jessica) Long said in an interview on Thursday. The goat was afraid at first, having been taken from his herd, but he warmed up to the girl and ran up to greet her, Ms. Long said.
So as the June 25 auction approached, the idea that Cedar would be sold — not as a creature but as 82 pounds of meat — began to horrify the girl, who was enrolled in a local 4-H program.
They tried to withdraw it from the auction. Not allowed. They moved Cedar to a farm 200 miles away. The fair sent the law after Cedar; two cops made a 500-mile round trip to fetch him back. And now Long is suing:
“They went and took Cedar without a warrant from this property and brought him back that evening,” Ryan R. Gordon, a lawyer for Ms. Long, said in an interview on Thursday. “All the sheriff’s deputy told me was, we turned him over to who we deemed was the owner. And that’s the problem. The sheriff’s deputies are not the judge. They don’t get to deem who the owner is.”
So much drama! Over a goat! And what happened to Cedar? It wasn’t a happy ending, we know that much:
Mr. Gordon, who is co-director of the nonprofit law firm Advancing Law for Animals, said he believed Cedar might have ended up at a barbecue organized by another young farmers’ group, the National FFA Organization, the next day, but he did not know for sure.
There’s more to the story: The winning bidder was a state senator making a gubernatorial bid, who probably wishes he was a million miles away now. There’s also this priceless line:
“It is noteworthy that Cedar’s successful bidder was not entitled to, and did not purchase, Cedar,” the lawsuit stated. “Rather, the successful bidder was entitled only the cuts of meat that were Cedar.”
It sounds like the girl didn’t take this well, as you might expect. Poor Cedar. He looked like a very nice goat.
And now state fair season is over. Cedar is dead, summer is dying, and today it barely rose above 70 degrees. (It felt GREAT.) Happy labor day, all.