Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt
It’s too hot, too humid, too rainy, too cramped.
Shame. Like moths to a light bulb, we are drawn to it. It is the local equivalent of Disney World.
It’s the county fair, a vast land of stomach-expanding foods. Men are powerless against massive amounts of fat. My neighbor Crandall, a famous carnivore who always begs for more fat, said he was just going to have a small slice of pizza and he did, but he washed it down with a funnel cake, two corn dogs, cheese curds, three pickle fries, a giant turkey leg like the Flintstones ate, and a fried picnic on a stick. It is the greediness allowed in a fair. A study conducted by the Office of Excessive Research found that the average person eats between three and five pounds of food a day. Three to five books? It’s a light snack between meals at the fair, not to mention the sticks the fried food had been impaled on. These sticks provide much-needed fiber.
I had a salt-free, sugar-free, fat-free and gluten-free meal. The towel was tasteless. A fairgoer offered me a mini donut or three. I declined with appreciation. I had had an elegant smugness and my smugness was suffocated and one more mini donut would have been superfluous.
Don Nolander, former Freeborn County Sheriff, said the number of children getting lost at the fair dropped dramatically when they stopped giving stray kids ice cream. Some children got lost several times a day. Parents are more vigilant today than previous generations who sent their children without worrying about where they went or with whom they went.
Those who could text before they could walk stared at cellphone screens as they walked halfway – the Ringling brothers-in-law circus. There are plenty of ways to spin around there as the runners sing the traditional halfway song, “Yeoooowwww!” I was told that the most popular ride on a hot day for seniors was an ambulance.
I don’t do rides. I flew through the Grand Canyon as a passenger in a small plane that bounced like a basketball with wings. Kermit the Frog was right. It’s not easy being green. Life is a bumpy ride. I grew up on a gravel road that was anything but straight. We had tractors and tow chains and rescued wayward drivers. We assured every driver that we would be able to get most of the car out of the ditch. I pulled a guy who was drunker than a wedding guest out of the ditch and he drove into the ditch across the road. Some people like short, scary rides.
There are competing noises at the Fair. Rackets of all kinds. One group was so strong it was painful. It was sponsored by an association of audiologists.
In 1988, George HW Bush received his party’s nomination for President of the United States. In his acceptance speech, he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. The T-shirts were nicer and softer than in years past. For example: “Education is important. Fishing is more important.
In the Rube Building, a supporter of dismantling the federal government told me that the politicians had their hands in my pockets. What do they want with all this plush?
I went to the Poultry Building to see the silkies. It’s my favorite chicken. Yes, I have a favorite chicken. Isn’t everyone? Silkies have fluffy plumage caused by the lack of barbs on their feathers, black skin, and five toes (most chickens have four).
I’ve had my fair share of experiences. I milked a cow by hand and brought a goat into a show ring while deftly walking through her droppings, which became like concrete on my shoes. I won a watermelon seed spitting contest when my opponent in the final inhaled deeply in preparation to send the seed onto the grandstand and sucked the seed into his trachea. I was worried that my victory dance would have to be postponed while I performed a Heimlich maneuver. The good news was that the loser was fine. I sat in a dunk tank and was amazed that my mother-in-law had such a precise and tireless throwing arm.
It was a time to put on a gold chain and wear it around my neck.
Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.