There are things about your childhood you can not un-forget. You return to them year after year. It’s automatic, like clockwork….or those swallows finding their way back to San Juan Capistrano.

There are things about your childhood you can not un-forget. You return to them year after year. It’s automatic, like clockwork….or those swallows finding their way back to San Juan Capistrano.

October rolls around and I feel ten years old again. My heartbeat quickens. The smell of sawdust, corn dogs, funnel cakes and gasoline fills the air. My fingers stick together as memories of cotton candy melt in my mouth. Strings of multi colored flashing lights keep me awake at night. From somewhere out back I hear the professional cry of “Step right up ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, SEE the only two headed calf in CAPTIVITY! One thin dime will get you in—that’s just ONE TENTH of a dollar…..”

Before TV. Before Elvis and transistor radios. Before eight track tapes, Blue Ray and Android….. The County Fair held our attention like nothing else you’ve ever seen!

Part of it was the wait. The fair only came around once a year, always in early autumn. I’m sure leaves were turning, Jack Frost creeping nearer and pumpkins ripening for Halloween. But we didn’t notice. The second the weather cooled, we went to searching every telephone pole up and down Stonewall Street, looking for the announcement. Anticipation is half the fun…..

We were ready to jump on that giant Ferris wheel and ride to the moon!

Part of it was a break from the boredom. How many times could you swing across the big ditch down behind George Sexton’s house? We’d hung out at the swimming pool till our hands shriveled up. We’d thrown horse shoes at every stake in town, tossed washers at every hole we could find and spit at every crack in every sidewalk in Carroll County.

I was tired of fighting the same two brothers everyday!

Part of it was the growing process. Mom took us when we were young. We’d spend our allowance picking up rubber ducks, throwing darts at balloons and woofing down caramel popcorn. By the next year we’d matured to pitching pennies into a menagerie of bowls and saucers, throwing softballs at stacked up bowling pins and trying our luck at climbing the greased pole.

By junior high, you couldn’t go with your mother! I’ve hitched a ride on Mr. Manley’s overloaded produce truck. I’ve stood at the intersection out by Eddie Carden’s house and waved until someone stopped. One year Graylene Lemons and I piled in the back of Aunt Opel’s pickup.

We had wised up to the rubber ducks and saucer games. They had all those giant teddy bears hanging everywhere like you had a chance—but all you ever won was the cheap fold out fan or those Chinese hand cuff things.

We moved on to the two headed calf. We became interested in the bearded lady, the tattooed lady and the lady with the elephant skin. In one tent a guy laid down on a bed of nails and let people from the audience stand on his chest. And I once saw a skinny, half dressed Himalayan swallow a five foot sword!

Part of it was your best friends were always involved. Me and Ricky, Yogi and Buddy raced up and down a few midways. And we worked hard on making each visit a memorable one.

That’s probably why we came up with the idea to get Millicent Blackburn sick. We took her on every ride in the place. We started with the Tilt-A-Whirl. Twice! And then the Scrambler. I didn’t think the Octopus was ever going to stop! My head was beginning to “float.”

Millicent was munching on carnival fries and waving us into the line for The Whip. Whew! That thing “whipped” my left kidney up around my pancreas. One more time on the Scrambler put my stomach in the permanent spin cycle! Millicent bought her third round of Jalapeño nachos and said, “What’s next?”

Somehow this plan wasn’t coming together! Buddy suggested we walk over to the livestock barn. Now folks, none of us had ever bothered with this part of the fair. For a very good reason! If we wanted to see cows, chickens, hogs and goats all we had to do was ride a mile out of town in any direction.

Millicent wasn’t buying it. “Guys, ya’ll have been so nice. Let me pay for another ride on the Octopus.”

Buddy opted out, said he’d promised Joe Sasser he’d look at his Blue Ribbon bull. Ricky remembered he was supposed to meet his brother over by the snake tent. Yogi vanished. “Millicent, I—uh, uh—you might want to back up a step. ONE of us is fixing to loose his chili cheese dog supper!”

I still throw up every October. I’m telling you, it’s like those swallows returning…..

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes