all’s Fair ……………. chapter 1

what’s the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?
A farmer walks into a horse barn. She sees twin girls near a huge pile of horse manure. The first, a pessimist, is angry and frustrated, kicking and shouting at the other. The second, a optimist, is laughing and tossing shovelful after shovelful gleefully in the air.
The farmer asks the optimist, “Why are you so happy about all this horse dirt?”
The optimist replies, “Well with all these horse droppings, there has to be a pony for me in here somewhere!”

That would be me and Goldy.


We were cousins. Identical cousins. Goldy and I spent two or three weeks side by side each year at Nebraska fairs. We lived for the two week Cheyenne County Fair and Rodeo.
I was from the big city of Denver so really never experienced a county fair. Malls in The City, substituted for the open markets made for an awkward and silly event, shopping in giant buildings indoors.

I switched from being a city girl to a country girl early on. To save the buck admission fee, Goldy showed me how to sneak into the grounds through the pond and the back acreage, pushing back sand burrs and barb wire. It was practice for our upcoming thorny trials.

Goldy lived for the Horses, trying to feed them dry prickly grass through the wires. Harnessed in finery or bronco busting nags, it made no difference to her; she loved their sad, wide eyes. Even now, I delight in the smell of grains pouring from gunny sack to bin and the scent of freshly cut alfalfa.
As for manure. Well, I now live 60 miles from Denver in a town where manure is the gross regional product.

The Thread Shed, a blazing barn lined with home-stitched quilts offered incandescence colors but held no curiosity for us in 120 degrees as wool aroma oozed from the stalls. I can envision rows of tables with prize roses, homemade dill pickles, jellies, acorn squash, and zinnias arranged for judgement.

We rode shaky, trembling Tilt a Whirls a dozen times a day. We clung to each other as we rode a miniature train through the Spook House, Ghost Gulch, thinking it was the most terrifying thing that could ever happen to us. Worse, it cost us our last $3. On a bad day, I can sometimes still feel her robust haybale- tossing grip as I summon her strength from my cobwebby cortex. I don’t need to call her office, I have her in my mind.

It was hot. Always the hottest days of the year. The fairgrounds were choking dirty, dusty, smelly without so much as a shrub for shade. The tin outbuildings where the animals were sheltered provided a prototype for solar collectors.

Cotton candy becomes a separate food group in Nebraska’s Augusts.
We walked barefoot on dirt paths, ate German fare of kraut and brautwurst from vendors without licenses, talked to shifty carnival workers, drank from each other’s bottles of creme soda, shared popsicles with stray dogs. We ate pie slices and hamburgers that I dropped, clumsily on contaminated dirt. And in Tornado Alley from Dix, NE to Illinois, people devoured Funnel Cakes.

We were certain we lived dangerously on a razor thin line of risk and daring. Cousin Maven showed me how to eat raw, unwashed sugar peas straight from her garden by splitting the pods with our canine teeth. She chided me for eating the coarse shell, apparently this was not part of country cuisine.

We swam in muddy, buggy, squalid ponds. We stomped around in snake country in our flip flops. I sunburned so severely I had to be wrapped in sheets covered in Noxema in order to sleep in their roasting attic loft. We got a hundred mosquito bites; ate butter and white bread sandwiches layered thick with white sugar. Yet, we appeared to have survived our childhood.

We spent hours staring from the outside of rickety fences into gaping pens. Poking at pink piglets to see if they would squeal, not knowing a sow, when properly motivated, can move faster than a bear and inflict a bite as deep. We stared at Black Angus being scrubbed, perfumed, and blow dried. The questions nagged at us, Why would anyone wash a manure machine?

stayed tuned horse lovers. Chapter 2 is well on its way. Optimists will win big at the ring toss.

9 comments

  1. That was great! Being a total country girl myself, you bring back a lot of great memories for me and a lot of excitement for for fair which is coming up soon!!

    1. Oh, Wacke, how kind of you to visit me while you are trying to manage the Fair. Check out chapter 2. You will be able to TOTALLY relate. My love. CFW

  2. grand literature cheryl – hats off to you!. all senses spring to life! for anyone who has “taken in” a fair or roDEo and carnival! always wait for the so qui lis!

  3. Well done! You brought back the sights and smells. And the heat. I had forgotten! Sorry you got so sunburned.:( ***mcb***

    1. I think maybe we had different experiences. Same state. You may have stayed in the car or in the stands where there was shade.
      Sunburn my fault. Was wearing a swimming suit all day??,!!?

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