Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fair Enough

I was never one for the county fair.

I mean, I always loved seeing all the animals, having my token elephant ear of the summer, perhaps even taking the opportunity to flee or overtly hide from acquaintances. But honestly, knowing that some (if not all, potentially) of the animals I cooed over, petted, and adored, were one day destined to be on someone's--maybe even my--dinner table was enough to make me buy a fry daddy and some yeast rolls and stay home.

But I have a new job, one that requires a little more fair experience than making elephant ears in the comfort of my own kitchen. More even, than treating the second degree burns sustained in the making of said elephant ears. More than cleaning up all the sugar spilled on the floor after the elephant ears are made, the burns are treated, and the delicious deep-fried glory of summer's greatest gem has been consumed.

I am a reporter.

This means that I, a city girl who has somehow managed to survive for the majority of her life in the country--okay, all of her life--must finally learn what it is that makes up a county fair, what it is that keeps the community coming back year after year, what makes countless parents force their children to raise animals three to four times their size only to have them kiss their beloved pets goodbye as they are loaded onto a Ronald McDonald brand Slaughterhouse Truck.

And it isn't pretty.

I have already whined and moaned about the waste products these animals produce, the fumes that contribute to, I would estimate, a third of all our greenhouse gases. I have complained about the two near-death experienced I have had in the past week, both at the hands--hooves--of rampaging farm beasts. But I have not complained about the most horrible element of the fair, the element that will leave me scarred for life, possibly forever:

The people.

I'm not talking about the sweet little 4-Her kids, who everyone has to love. Here are tiny little third-graders who lead giant steers around on ropes as thick as their upper-arms without fear--who wouldn't adore these kids? And not the farm parents, who will love and comfort any kid with a hurt arm, a spooked animal, or with missing parents. And not the organizers, who give so much of their time and attention to make the week work out right, who carefully manage every moment, who live in the tiny office built into the most horrible portion of the most miserable building (that's the dead center of the hog barn). God bless all these people. They could all certainly use His attentions.

I'm talking about the visitors, the attendees, the businesspeople, the nuclear families, the teenage wanna-bes. Those people. The people who think it's cool to live at the fair, even though the only thing they really are doing is running around in circles and shouting, while consuming twice their body weight in pork products, pretending that junk food doesn't count during fair week. Well it does, I promise.

These are people who stepped on me, who bumped into me as I tried to get a good shot of a kid for the front page. These are people who knock poor innocent reporter's notebooks, cell phones, and digital voice recorders into puddles, laugh at them, and walk away, leaving the poor staff writer to pray for her notes and recording of the Sidney Town Council meeting, since that town is really messed up and people ought to know about it. Really.

So I have decided to document three such individuals for you, people who made my last week a little more interesting, and a shade more miserable.

The Hover-round Biker

Okay, so this was just one guy, but he is too priceless not to mention. This man was around sixty-five. Tattooed. Mustached. Bedecked in black leather. Mohawk-ed. Yes, he had a Mohawk. And dyed--his Mohawk was colorful.

If this guy had been on a motorcycle, it would have been natural, normal, if not disturbing.. But instead, he was sitting in/on a Hover-round or Jazzy brand scooter.

The poor man had lost his legs, which is tragic, and it made me quite sad for him. But luckily, the accident had not ruined his day, he was perfectly happy to chain smoke next to the food booths and make inappropriate or lewd comments to young women. Whether his legs had been lost in some kind of war or in a high-speed motorcycle accident, I do not know. But I believe the latter to be more likely. He had tricked out his ride with Harley Davidson paraphernalia.

The Down-Home-Country Whore

This young woman, invariably a woman, has come to the fair in an attempt to attract eligible young farmers, or perhaps their fathers. She follows in the example of the other 4-H competitions and uses the opportunity to beautify herself in every possible way, and wears as little clothing as possible in order to display her bone and muscle structure to the judges. While the display of flesh, perfectly tanned (or well-fried) is necessary, the Down-Home Country Whore must also give the impression of a capability to complete various task including, potentially, hard labor. This is achieved by creating a clothing ensemble designed in the style of the Blue Collar Comedy group. She makes cut-off shorts, with the pockets peeking, okay, hanging, out. They are cut off at the bend of the thigh, but also slashed further up, across the pocket region, in order to properly exhibit the ham. Bras, of course, are optional, and either removed or worn in such a way as to make them completely visible. This feat is achieved by wearing brightly colored under things, lacy brassieres which provide a kind of topography, or by choosing a sheer outer garment.

The hair is teased, the makeup caked, the tan flawless and sure to generate years of crippling skin problems to creep up and strike the weathered flesh of this future mother of ten. But as important as the skin revealed are the style of the garments which fail to cover it. Yes, the Down-Home-Country Whore must be certain to imply her country-ness by selecting plaid work shirts, tied snugly beneath the bosom, and by carefully selecting footwear. Cowboy boots are appropriate, as are work boots, but more importantly, the sexy exterior must be maintained.

This is achieved by wearing boots which reach the knee, or surpass it. The result is a sultry look of farmhand meets Anna Nicole Smith meets Paris Hilton. Which, come to think of it, might make Paris Hilton quite happy, if you know what I mean...

The Idiot Child and Irresponsible Parent Combo Platter, Jumbo-sized and Good to Go

There are many varieties of this final category, beginning with the annoying and proceeding deep into the "If only murder wasn't illegal in this state" or "I wish I could still be charged as a juvenile" stage.

The Idiot Child can be any age, sometimes even an adolescent or teenager. This life form desires something, anything, to be given to it immediately, by the nearest adult. Usually it is paired with an Irresponsible Parent, who allows the Idiot Child to roam free around the fair alone, accosting other adults for treats, assistance, or attention. The Irresponsible Parent solves his or her problems by putting as much food as possible into the mouth of the Idiot Child. The Idiot Child is therefore the size of a small killer whale. If, however, the level of ADD dwarfs the level of food consumption, the child is wiry. The parents may be emaciated out of the sheer stress of having such a high maintenance child, or they too are obese, caused by a manic habit of drowning anxiety with food.

These are the people who race around the barns, knocking over gates, spooking animals, frightening hapless reporters. These are the people who dump reporter's bags into puddles where their electronic devices become drowned in questionable substances.

These are people who run food booths that give poor, unfortunate reporters food poisoning, leaving them sprawled on their bathroom floors, regaining consciousness only long enough to throw up the sip of water they had consumed in between fainting spells. Oh yes. That was my post-fair weekend.

So I suppose it can be understood that, now that I have typed up all fair results, now that I have washed every article of clothing (including the footwear) that passed through the gates of the fairgrounds, I really only want to pretend that the fair never happened. I want to have my mother's selective memory, to block out the horrific events that plague my nightmares. But I can't. All I can do is thank God and Becky that I only have to cover one fair a year, and that I have a whole year until the fair comes again.

But that's too little time, I think, for me to want to see a pig before next summer.

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