The combination never worked for me.

            The combination never worked for me. I don’t know if it was the hot dogs, the carnival smell drifting upwards from the damp sawdust mixed with tobacco juice, the heat from the lingering Indian summer, too much cotton candy or the second ride on the tilt-a-whirl. It could have been a combination of all of the above. Here’s what I know for sure: try as I might, I could never make it to the Ferris wheel. My stomach just couldn’t hold it all in. Shucks, I would be sick before we got over to the little ducks with the numbers on the bottom. 

The Carroll County Fair was one of the most anticipated weeks in our little world. We’d get excited the moment we spied those “flyers” stapled to every other telephone pole in town smartly announcing the fall return of the rides, eats, excitement, lighted mid-way and the skimpy clad exotic dancers. It was an escape from the mundane. A magical ride to another world! It was curly fries; bobbed up apples; loud circus like music; and Uncle Sam on stilts.

Anticipation is often times better than the event.

Me, Dennis Coleman and Graylene Lemonds would ride over early in the back of Mr. Coleman’s pickup. After the second or third year, I knew not to eat the corn dogs and/or the giant funnel cake…..and then ride the twister. But I was so hungry. And, listen, that twister looked like the ride of a lifetime! While Dennis and Graylene threw darts at the colored balloons, I was over behind the shrunken heads’ tent, doing a little hurling of my own!

That loud music grew louder. The lights wouldn’t stop flashing. I could hear the guy in the red and white stripped coat yelling at the top of his lungs, “Step right up ladies and gentlemen and see the greatest show on the midway. She walks, she talks, she crawls on her belly like a reptile, see the incredible Dance of the Seven Veils! Hurry, Hurry, Hurry, one quarter gets you a front row seat!”           

My head was spinning faster than the tilt-a-whirl. I threw up a chocolate chip cookie, two pickled pigs’ feet and a slaw dog I’d eaten back in April. I promised myself a hundred times I wasn’t going to do this ever again! Of course, the next year I was right back in the same place, eating and riding and getting sick. Wasn’t it Einstein who said it was idiotic to repeat the same action over and over but somehow expect a different result? 

I thought I would outgrow the sickness. I never did.

One year I concentrated on the side shows. I paid a dime to see a two headed calf. The picture outside showed a big cow with definitely two heads looking in opposite directions. Inside, the actual calf was a miniature thing in a large jar of formaldehyde that could, if you looked closely, be a two headed calf. Of course, it could also just have been a miniature thing in a jar.

I paid another dime to see the bearded lady. She had a big black beard all right. But she was up on this raised stage and I couldn’t get close enough to give it a yank. She might have been on the up and up……but I don’t know to this day if what I saw was what I saw.

I had no luck pitching pennies into the shallow glass saucers. I threw softballs at stacked up bowling pins. I shot a BB gun at moving targets. If I did win a prize it was never the big teddy bear. I always got stuck with the psychedelic pencil with the feathers sticking out where the eraser ought to be or those Chinese handcuff things where you stuck a finger in each end.

One year I went over to the livestock show. I walked around looking at chickens, pigs and cows for an hour before it dawned on me—we had chicken, pigs and cows at the house. What was I doing wasting my time here! I got so distraught I ate two foot longs, a fudge brownie and a green candied apple. And then I rode the scrambler. That machine was aptly named. It pushed my liver up beside my thorax, my left lung dropped below my right kidney, my esophagus was thrown plum out of my body and I didn’t find my pituitary gland until years later when I took an army physical. It was the sickest I’ve ever been!

I was surprised in high school when Billie Jean insisted that I take her to the fair. She was the first girl I’d ever really dated. I bought a new pair of Bass Weejuns “penny loafers” to impress her. Of course, I was too cool for socks and my new Haggar pants really set those shoes off.

We’d just started down the mid way when she suggested we get some food.

“No” I stated rather emphatically.

She steered us over to the tilt-a-whirl. “I just loved this ride.”


“Let’s get on the zipper.”


 “How about the—”  


  I liked her you understand, but I’d paid almost forty dollars for those new Weejuns. I wasn’t about to throw up on them the first day I took them out of the box!