The old people talk about the trouble they used to have with going to the fair.
The way they talk, you’d swear ’twas the gulags they were faced with, and not a pleasant day in a country town.
If you ask me, the old people are talking nonsense. They had no trouble with the fair, not in comparison to the hurdles we have to endure these days to sell our cattle. The old people and their fairs were a walk in the bloody park.
Picture the scene 50 years ago, and there you are, a merry young man hunting three placid old cows down a boreen. Dawn has just broken, birds have begun to sing, you whistle a merry tune to yourself as you amble along. You are heading to a local town where a cattle fair is due to take place and where a fortune will be made.
Nearing the town, you come across three comely maidens dancing at a crossroads. The trio radiate beauty. They delight in meeting you, a farmer. They assure you that the town is only beyond the rose bush.
Blowing them kisses, you carry on. Life doesn’t get much better, you believe, but let me assure you it does.
A short time later, you arrive in the town and, within moments, a jolly cattle dealer is by your side.
He has money to burn, and makes an offer only a fool would refuse, as he pushes a ball of cash into your hand.
With the cows sold and pockets brimming with cash, you head to one of the 100 pubs scattered around the town (every town had 100 pubs 50 years ago).
And for the remainder of the day, you dine royally.
You drink, sing, cajole and generally carouse to your heart’s content.
With the fair over, your belly full, the sun at your back, and most likely a kiss planted on your cheek, you head for home.
And even after your day of cavorting, the money made from the sale of three worn out cows will be enough to keep you in the pink for the remainder of the year, if not your life. That was a typical fair. It was like a trip to Vegas.
Now, picture the scene today. Let us examine the situation pertaining to selling cattle in 2019.
You wake up screaming, because that is what you do. You know you’ve forgotten something, maybe the cattle cards weren’t stamped by the vet, maybe you forgot to book in the cattle, maybe you are losing your mind.
Selling cattle today is all about stress and bookwork.
The cattle themselves come in a poor second.
You’ll quickly discover that three old cows these days no longer supply you with enough cash to keep the show on the road. The profit from three cows wouldn’t get you a bag of crisps in 2019.
And you can forget about walking the cattle to town or meeting them comely maidens. All, my friend, are now just figments of your imagination.
Eventually you sell the cattle, and discover you are making less than the old boys did 50 years ago.
No longer have you the money, or time to arse around a town for the day.
With your tail between your legs, you gallop for home, for you have a vital off-farm job to get to.
Of course, some might argue that you could sell your cattle online. Indeed you could. But selling anything online is a bit like dealing in the dark. I wouldn’t sell a pencil online, never mind a bullock.
No, it has to be the mart. But in an ideal world, it would surely be the Fair.