Not Amused

Theme parks and carnivals don’t amuse me at all. A lot of new kids to our ranch think it’s an entertainment mecca, making me the head of amusement park security.

 Kids that have never seen a stack yard are in awe of our two-story, neatly stacked round bales. I know what they’re thinking before they even ask, so I’m quick to point out that there’s no playing on the stacks for safety reasons. A lot of newcomers see a hillbilly version of those big, air-filled carnival castles for sliding, jumping and bouncing on, but not the potential danger.

My kids know the rules but tend to forget them when company’s around and some have been amended after visitors not accustomed to country life stayed with us. Changes were made to the “no playing in the stock tanks” rule after rocks had to be fished out of the tank. When my son was younger, he and his guest invented a country kid edition to the dunk tank. After being asked to check on the water, they chucked fist-sized rocks into it and watched the rocks dunk and splash, which was more entertaining to them than any carnival dunk tank.

Another time, our son thought it was okay to throw rocks at the rickety windows of unused buildings because his ally was. He and his friend found out that prizes for hitting targets around here aren’t near as fun to win as they are at carnivals.  Their prize was a nasty scolding.

To ensure company always shuts a gate when livestock is around, I’ve revised our gate-closing rule. Everyone has to help get critters back in that got out as a result of gates left open. This works because most pint-sized visitors think cows have the temperament of a Mexican bull and I don’t bother telling them otherwise.

When it’s full, our dam is a dirty water park kid magnet. I make sure first-timers know that playing at the dam unsupervised is off limits, but when I see our dog Pepper, all wet and muddy I know why. An overused story I’ve heard to explain muddy shoes and jeans is that Pepper was fetching something of theirs in the dam.

Our biggest attraction though, is the horses (especially with girls). Once it’s known we have some, kids’ faces light up like Vegas and their first question is, “Can we ride the horses?” When saddling up, one isn’t good enough because horse lovers prefer riding solo versus double. Riding around the fenced-in lot isn’t satisfactory either. Unlike horses at carnivals that are ridden around in a circle, riders can see wide open spaces beyond the corral fence and ask if they can ride down to the junkyard a half mile away.

When it comes to the barn cats, I usually don’t worry about them being the tortured ones because I’ve seen them hold their own against Pepper when cornered. I’ve witnessed the arms of people who attempted to handle a barn cat and a kid is no match for our cats. As my husband says, “It doesn’t take long to ‘look’ at ’em.”

Constantly having to question and check on kids, monitor outside activities and worry about the new kid, is stressful and wearisome for me. This probably explains why I don’t care for zoos, amusement parks or carnivals but by evening, am ready to pack up and join the circus.

Column originally published April 6-12, 2008

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