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Said and Done

That bull, he’d seen it all before

The first time we went to a county fair, we had a dollar to spend. Just what we spent it on, I don’t remember. I do remember that one of us spent a dime on a “chance” and it paid off.

I have other memories of that fair, still clear in mind, but the memory of the chance and the big bull that was the main part of it makes a story well worth the telling.

The bull was standing exactly as we had left him the day before. His hind end was pressed against the back of his stall and his head was still lowered in a position to charge.

This was no made-over beast altered to live out an impotent life in the neutral zone. There was fire in his eye, a bright intelligence. Remove the bars between him and you’d better be quick on your feet.

A bunch of us boys went to the fair together the year of the bull. We cruised the midway, blew nickels and dimes in sideshow come-ons and had a general good time.

When we got to the tent where they had the big bull, we were getting low in cash and diminished in spirit. It cost a dime to buy a ticket and guess the bull’s weight. There was a $10 prize at the end of the day for the closest guess. Only one of us hit on that.

He was a farm boy. It was Depression time. Farming with his family is what he did. Going to school was an interruption between morning chores and afternoon labor.

The boy with the ticket tore off one end and wrote something on it. He turned it in to someone in charge and left with us to look for whatever other excitement the fair might offer.

There’s something about a fair that stimulates sex. At that time we were too young to know much about sex, but we recognized it when we saw it. We were seeing it all around us.

Healthy young bucks and their girls, laughing too loud and racing from one attraction to another, pushed and pulled, shoved and jostled, in a crowd just barely this side of out of control.

We witnessed a fight. Two men were pounding each other with their fists. Not skillfully — but with bad effect. Both had battered faces and bloody noses. Their girls just stood there, doing nothing. The fighters would have killed each other if the town police hadn’t stopped them. They went off in different directions after the fight, and we went off wondering what it had all been about.

As our afternoon wore on, we came to the long line of cattle sheds where we watched a woman in high heels and a nice dress help a cow give birth to a calf. We didn’t know the word “incongruous,” but we knew it was an odd arrangement we were looking at, and today would have seen the whole episode as a raw incongruity.

There was the lady, all dolled up, and there was the cow, all humped up, the lady pulling on the hoof ends of two black legs, the cow heaving and straining to get done with it. Suddenly the whole issue slipped out on the ground and the cow turned around. The lady in the pretty dress wiped her hands on a burlap bag, then turned her back on the cow and newborn calf. We went off wandering some more.

We went to another tent, where another “barker” was at work. We didn’t recognize this human magnet as a “con” man because we had never been irresistibly pulled — yanked is a better way of putting it — and the rascal got the last mite out of our pocket.

We went into a tent mostly full of old men, with some kids lined up on a front bench, waiting for something to happen, kids maybe 10 years old, out of school on “fair day.”

Suddenly and with no fanfare, some nearly naked girls appeared in front of us, undulating their way from one end of a makeshift stage and back to the other, eased along by a slick chap at a piano up front.

It was too much. We were too young for naked. One of us said, “Let’s get out of here!” We got up and got out.

We didn’t have high hopes when we went back to the tent where the bull was. Our schoolboy friend wasn’t the only one who had taken a chance on guessing the bull’s weight. It never occurred to us that as a farm boy he had a head start on the crowd.

He won. Not only had he won, he had put down numbers within a pound or so of the bull’s actual weight. He got a 10 dollar bill, and we all went home ecstatic.

And now the bull still stood just as we had left him the day before. One of us had a brother who worked for the fair, so we were there with him and he went for his pay.

There was no crowd; everyone was gone. Most of the tents were folded up and ready to be trucked to the next fair. The young bucks were gone to wherever young bucks go when fairs end — and their laughing girls with them.

The cow and her calf had been carted back to the farm. Their mistress was back in the kitchen, probably having swapped her dress for jeans.

Some of us, maybe all of us, wish we’d stayed longer to see more of the naked girls. They were gone away, too, to exhibit themselves in one more fair, to a gawking bunch of men wherever tents were next going up.

We stood awhile looking at the bull. There was fire in his eye, a bright intelligence.

For all his being shut up in a tent, he had seen it all before. When they trucked him off to challenge small monies out of small boys’ pockets, he had seen it all before.

That’s the way of fairs.

In semi-retirement after 58 years of writing for The Recorder, Paul Seamans of Gill will continue Said & Done on a regular monthly basis. Some of his columns will have been previously published.

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