There are lots of attractions waiting for you at the Reliant Center during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -- milking demonstrations, a kids' carnival, petting zoo, shopping, pony rides and, our favorite, the Birthing Center.
Hair Balls was attracted by the possibility of seeing a baby horse or cow being born. Heck, even a load of piglets would have been cool.
But Mother Nature (and cow uteruses, apparently) don't work on a schedule and none of the cows were in labor. Visitors had to be content with watching a taped birth on one of several big screen televisions stationed several feet overhead.
(We have two suggestions for the organizers of next year's Rodeo: One, get huge, gigantic HD televisions. This' year's screens, though large, didn't allow viewers to see enough details. And, two investigate Smell-o-Vision. We're guessing the whole gush-squeeze-birth process should be pretty odorous. Adding Smell-o-Vision would add a sense of reality.)
We thought our birthing center visit had been a bust until we passed a large plastic box sitting on a table, dozens of chicken eggs were scattered around the table. Some were sitting still, but some were rocking slightly. And some, which scored way off the "Aw, isn't that cute?" scale, were being broken open by their residents.
Tiny, wet, weak little chicks pecking their way out of the egg and into the world. We saw one little black chick shake off half of its shell, blink its tiny eyes at the bright lights ... and drop down dead.
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It staggered a second, stumbled to the floor, closed it's eyes and its little head went down ...down ...down, thump.
Hair Balls panicked and was considering who to call over to remove the pitiful little carcass (images of scared little children running from the birth area flashed through our head), when a Lazarus moment happened and the chick picked up it's little head, stumbled a few more steps and ... dropped down dead again.
It finally occurred to us that it wasn't dying, it was resting.
Being born, especially when you have to peck your way through a shell, is tiring work and it had to nap every few seconds. We stuck around for a minute, just to make sure one of the naps didn't become permanent, and then left the little chick alone to nap undisturbed. (All the "I think it died" drama aside, it was pretty cute.)