My 10-year-old teacher

“Do you want to come see my goats?”

I turned around and looked down to see Ethan Knapp of the Milkmasters 4-H club staring up at me over the top of his glasses. He had a nice plaid shirt on so I was pretty sure he was about to take one of his goats into the Phillips Arena at the Venango County Fair for the annual livestock auction. Ethan is 10 and he, of course, knows what that means.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Franklin,” he replied. “I’m a town boy working in the country.”

This was his second year showing, but his first year selling.


“Fun fact about goats, do you want to hear it?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied.

“Well, back in the olden days they used to have horse drawn carriages, but that’s not all, they used to have goat drawn carriages too,” he said.

“I didn’t know that!” I said.

“Yep, someday I’m going to have a carriage for my goats to pull.”

At this point I realized that I really don’t know anything. Ethan here has been on this planet 40 years less than I have and he knows things I don’t.  Now, obviously he has a vested interest in this subject, but still, you’d think in 50 years I’d know these things. I enjoyed learning from this young man. We shook hands and I went back to looking for photographs and he went back to asking people if they want to see his goats. A real teacher. He even got the ear of Venango County Commissioner Chip Abramovich.

About 20 minutes later, I’m standing back in the arena waiting for the start of the auction and I here this voice again from below.

“You want to hear how I saved a goat’s life?”

So put yourself in my shoes and think about this … do I really want to hear how a 10-year-old boy saved a goats life?


Of course I do.

What happened next was pure brilliance and one of the greatest things I’ve witnessed at any fair in my nearly 20 years of covering fairs.

Ethan said we’ll want to sit down for this and proceeded to pull out a chair for me to sit on. There was a big fan in the way blocking another chair and a third chair was wedged behind the table in such a way Ethan struggled to get it out. I told him it’s OK, I can stand and he sat down and said, “I really need to sit for this!”

Now, I’m trying to hold back chuckling watching this 10-year-old boy with the seriousness of a grandfather telling stories and giving out free lessons to those who will listen.

Then he starts.

“It was a nice Sunday and the goats were out,” he started. At this point I wished I was recording because he went into details I couldn’t write down fast enough. Apparently, on the farm there is an area he referred to as the manure pit. He gave me very precise measurements of how deep this pit was and how tall his baby goats were. It seems the pit was a little deeper than the goats were high and they wandered in and got stuck.

“They got stuck up to their necks in poop!”

Ethan said he was wearing water shoes and shorts but knew he had to go in after them. He got two out but a third one was in really deep and he had to go in even deeper himself.

“It was pretty gross!” He said his dad gave him a rope halter that he put on the goat to help.

“She was pretty stuck,” he said.

He managed to drag himself and the goat out. “And that’s how I saved a goat’s life.”

He said he had to hose himself off and it was “pretty disgusting.”

Little encounters with people like this is how we learn things. That’s one of the greatest things about county and community fairs. They are a great way to learn things and allow people with knowledge to teach us something we might not even realize we’re interested in. Young Ethan was only one of the young people I met this week who taught me something I didn’t know. I am thank to him for coming up to me and asking me a simple question and then taking the time with me to tell me a story and give me fun facts. He also told me how surprisingly strong goats are and demonstrated by riding on the back of one of his goats.

“You want to know what I named her after that?” he asked.

“Yes, what did you name her?” I replied.