PAINT IT LIKE A COW The Fair. I Hadn’t Been To One Of These

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The Fair.

I hadn’t been to one of these: “regional events, held annually,
consisting of farm and home product displays, and various
competitions and entertainments,” since childhood.

I don’t understand it, either. I live in the New England
boonies, and every summer and fall it’s possible to spend months
full of weekends doing nothing but hopping the archipelago of
state, county and local Fairs. All one needs is a lawn chair, sensible
shoes, forty-seven thousand dollars in quarters, and a constitution
capable of beating back the gastrointestinal ambush lurking in a
steamed hamburger and curlyfries.

Ready? Drop your urban attitudes and pick up your Sweeties,
seats, well-seasoned hightoppers, coin purses and Pepto-Bismol.
We’re off to a Country Fair....

Prepare to wait for a moment above the fairgrounds in a high
pasture parking lot, as two retired firemen in red vests, blue hats,
and wielding orange batons argue over whether you should “back
in heah” or “head in over thar” to that gap in the stone wall.

Be patient. This is just an extension of the lifelong arguments
they’ve had over checkerboard strategies and tractor maintenance,
and when they’re through you’ll end up wedged in an impossible
parallel park by the rock maples anyway.

Your street smarts will serve you no good here; these are
country folk. At the ribbon awards for “Best Udder,” the
qualitative and quantitative differences in cow udders may be lost
on you, but to the dairy farmer who has bag-balmed Bessie’s
undercarriage all year, it’s his milk and butter.

As you begin touring around the farm animal shows and
exhibits, be mindful of where you step and stand. These critters
will evacuate wherever they step and stand, and unless you relish
cowpatty on your steamed hamburger patty, watch where you
unfold your lawn chair and don’t lean on the fences.

On to the live music. If Rick Norcross & The Nash’ful
Ramblers’ country boogie rendition of “Paint It Like A Cow”
doesn’t give you happy feet, you’ve been sitting too long in the
concrete jungle.

And, the Country Fair is the only place in the world you’ll find
the following:

The Pork Chop Revue, where you’ll see a 50-pound, five-year-old
boy onstage singing “Popeye The Sailor Man,” with an 800-pound pig.

Boy with microphone: “I’m Popeye the sailor man.”

Big pig singing into microphone held by boy: “Toot-Snort.”

If you couldn’t justify the price of admission, animal toiletries,
and the shoehorned parking place up to now, that alone should do
it. But, there’s much more....

No Fair is complete without the carnival rides and midway.
This is where you’ll use all but eight of your 188,000 quarters and
slip into a hyperglycemic haze, spending them on cotton candy,
snow cones, candied apples and a stuffed animal reproduction of
Cecil The Seasick Sea Serpent, the latter your prize after you
finally succeed in hooking an eight-inch basketball through a seven and
three-quarter inch hoop.

And, somehow, it will seem like a bargain.

The rides. Here you’ll have the option of being launched above
the treetops, slungshot and whiplashed silly while strapped in a
human bird cage, and expelling the meaty glucose concoction
you’ve consumed not only into your lap, but the laps of your
equally nauseated Sweetie and sea serpent.

At the top of one perfectly-named ride known as “The Zipper,”
momentarily upended, you’ll catch a glimpse of your vehicle on the
hill being completely blocked in by a horse trailer.

You’ll then leave the age of innocence behind, find yourself
with no means of egress, and discover the true balance of nature:
In one afternoon you’ll have eaten, been peed upon and thrown up
a big dumb animal. Just try that at the office.

Shaken but enlightened, undeterred, and in what seems like a
predestinate walk down the path of knowledge, you’ll find yourself
moving on to the oxen pulling contest.

Here, two sweaty guys each the size of your car, somehow
manage to back up two yoked animals each the size of your garage,
tether them onto a sled holding enough concrete blocks to replace
your basement, and upon a cue known only to this team of man &
beast, prompt them to haul it a designated distance.

My favorite was the young man who stood between these
tensing, hoofed freight trains and eyeballed them into submission,
freezing them stock-still in the ancient power of his bovine
whammy, then leaped out of the lane, snapped his whip, and
whoop-hollered the ox-equivalent rallying cry of: “You’ve got that
ball, now go!”

They’ll go. They’ll win. And, you too will find yourself
applauding animals for the second time that day.

But, before the sun sets beneath the tilting row of portable
potties and after you’ve seen not only your first Sheep Obstacle
Course, but more jams, hams and quilts than you can stick a
Shaker at, (and let’s not forget the best danged udder this side of
Mayberry) it will dawn on you, too:

These are not just kids living grown-up dreams or oldsters
reliving glory days...not just people coming together to share and
celebrate the fruits of their labors and the patchwork of life’s
simplest pleasures....

This is the best we can be.

And, at the end of it, if you can find your car and get out of
thar from heah, you’ll still have two bucks left for the

Meet you back at hindquarters.

Fair enough.

Copyright 1997 B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.