Friday, April 4, 2014

A Day at the Fair

Do remember when The Fair was a big deal? Not the County Fair, but the State Fair. Back when once a year you had a chance to ride a Carousel or a Ferris Wheel. Back when once that chance was gone, it took a year for it come around again, and you couldn't buy a ride on a Carousel for love nor money in between times.

The day after we got back form The Fair we started saving for next year. We would cash in 6 pop bottles we found down near the bus stop, and 5 would go to candy and one to the can under the bed for The Fair. Earn 50 cents doing chores for Ms. Appleby? At least a nickel for the fair fund. Half of the dollar you got from Grandma on your birthday was Fair money, and when the tobacco was sold we each got $2 for the collection can; $3 if it brought an extra good price.

They say each generation gains some and loses some. We had 4 days we looked forward to every year: Christmas (of course); our Birthday (of course); The Last Day of School, and the Day we went to The Fair. Kids today have lost the excitement that that one day brought. All these amusement parks hither and yon. A ride on the Ferris Wheel was a year long anticipation; now it's an hour's car ride.

Us boys would lay awake nights during the summer in the room we shared, spilling stories of what we would do once that golden day became real, and mentally counting our coins and spending a few nickels on Cotton Candy, a few more on a hot dog on a bun with chili sauce, a few pennies on the games of chance, and then on to the rides. The Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler, then the Carousel and Ferris Wheel. We would argue about the ride lineup until we all fell asleep, or until we got a little to loud over the Ferris Wheel being third or fourth and Dad's strong voice would bark up the stairs to be quiet, and we would settle down and drift off to finish the argument in our dreams.

We had more fun counting the coins and dreaming of the spending than we actually did at The Fair some years. Some years it would rain, or was too cold. One year the generator was down, so no rides and no Cotton Candy. But that was the year my brother Herb won a stuffed dog on the Monkey Pitch, so it turned out alright, for him anyway.

The Fair was more than just the rides and games and eats; it was a goal. It was something we worked towards. It was what got us out of bed in the morning and put us to sleep at night. It was what got us up and down each row of tobacco, corn and potatoes. Talking about it kept our minds off of the drudgery of wash day, the labor of cutting, hauling and stacking firewood all summer and the chore of mucking the barn. The dream that the milk we sold now was a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl then.

Sometimes the dream is worth more than the reality.

But who knows that anymore?

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