It’s homecoming week here at Hope. I really have no idea what that is, except that it means there is suddenly a large number of old people walking around campus (alumni? grandparents? random strangers who decided it was a good week to walk through the middle of campus?). It’s actually awesome, because it means I get to see people who aren’t just within two years of my age. Which like never happens otherwise, unless I go to Meijer and stand in the parking lot (which I have been tempted to do on occasion. people who are younger than me…must look at you…).
However, it also means there’s a “Hoedown” that every student worth anything at Hope goes to. They bus us all off to a “farm” about ten minutes from campus, and there’s apple cider and line dancing and hay rides and animals and campfires.
I followed my Roomie there like a lost puppy again (I’m pretty good at the whole lost-puppy thing). I actually really did get lost. Like twice. But no worries, I found her again both times. I got there half an hour after she did, since I missed the first bus (too full) and the second one was late coming to get more people. I couldn’t find her right off by the time I got there, since it was dark (about 9:30pm), and crowded, and loud. So I walked around with a couple dancers, Lydia and Elizabeth, who I ran into, and that was nice. We went in the barn and looked at the animals.
I don’t remember that much from last year (I was too busy trying not to get lost to pay much attention to anything other than the back of my roommate’s head then). But this time around…? When we finally made our way through all the pens of animals and the insane press of people and back out the other side of the barn, Lydia remarked that it must be kind of offensive to me to be at a place like this, since I come from a real farm.
You know, everybody decked out in flannel shirts and cowboy hats and french braids, talking in fake country accents and dressing up to go to a farm like it’s not work and not a livelihood and not anything real at all.
The answer is yes. It is offensive. But not because the people dress up in flannel and cowboy hats. It’s offensive, it’s painful, because not one of them gets it. Not one of them understands that being a farm girl isn’t at all like the country songs say it is. And because that place is a sorry excuse for a farm anyway.
It’s a petting zoo. Ten chickens in a tiny six-foot-square coop, all bedraggled and losing their feathers. Six rabbits in cages stacked on top of each other and covered in thick drapes of cobweb , their floors slanting backwards. A single pig, trying to sleep in a pen hardly big enough for it to turn around in, while a hundred gawking college students wave their smartphones at it and scream things to try and get it to look at them for a picture. Four goats, standing in the back corner of their equally small pen to keep away from the people. A ewe and her two lambs, sawdust and dirt working its way ever deeper into their wool, terrified by the noise but unable to do a thing about it. A miniature donkey and a couple cows, misshapen and unhealthy-looking, fondled by wave after wave of ignorantly ungentle arms.
A litter of the smallest baby bunnies I’ve ever seen, being passed from one squealing student to the next, eyes wide with something like shock, trembling, ears pressed back into their baby fuzz, clumsily jostled from hand to hand to hand and back around again.
The only nice thing I saw was a skinny barn cat, lulled to sleep in the arms of a young man standing away from the other people in a corner.
I wanted to get up on my soapbox and say, hey, people? Stop. Just stop. Right now. Because every bit of this is fake.
Please, can we all just stop talking so loud, and turn off all these floodlights, and let the darling bunnies go back to their mamas to be comforted, and step away from the sheep and the goats and let them breathe…and let the chickens out of that cage right now because they don’t belong there at all. It’s fake, and it’s horrible, and it hurts.
I was so thankful that Lydia, at least, recognized that to a girl who knows animals, knows farming, knows country like the back of her hand and deep within her blood…all this hype and noise is wrong.