Miss(ed) Manners

September 16, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Fair is Fair

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 4:31 pm

For me, animal testicles are a constant source of wonderment, bordering on eerie fascination. I grew up across a dirt road from a herd of show cattle and every now and again the bull would traipse past my field of view literally dragging his massive sack behind him. Mix that in with my love of gangster movies and their characters’ proclivity for commenting on each other’s balls, i.e., “paisan, you’ve got a real set of balls on you!” and you can perhaps see where it all began.

So, it was initially the chance of viewing some spectacular nuttage that spurred me to revisit my hometown for the annual Columbia County Fair over Labor Day weekend. Sure, there were some other reasons, the rides, the bad food, the portly, mulleted wraiths of my childhood walking under the neon lights and bathed in the second hand meth sweat of carnie folk. I came for the memories but ultimately stayed for the sheep balls.

All balls aside you can learn a lot at a small town country fair. It’s just one of the smaller slices of life that get left in the pie tin by us big city folk. Before I go much further though:

A Brief Testicular Interlude

Have you ever seen anything so amazing? We arrived at the fair in the late afternoon. By we I mean: myself, my girlfriend, my friends Sunny and Brendan and my older brother, Jon. For Jon and I it was a return to a yearly ritual that we’d left behind in High School. While I’d been joking about going to see animal balls, I think my companions were still a little surprised when I mentioned that we were making a bee-line to the livestock area.

Country fairs aren’t just death trap centrifuge rides and cotton candy. They’re an annual meeting of the local agricultural heavyweights in an all out husbandry brawl to secure studding contracts, blue ribbon accolades and industry contacts. Think “network cocktail hour” only with more hay and feces.

I had hoped that we’d get to see a wide array of livestock nuts, but as it turns out, it’s not a really great idea to have a bunch of testosterone laden beasts around children and female animals. So we had to settle for sheep, because, well, they’re sheep. We ogled for a while and I just want to point something out: Some of them are shaved and some aren’t. That means that somewhere out there someone gets to shave sheep scrot.

How awesome is that?

“Hey, what do you do?”

“I shave sheep testicles.”

“I play lead guitar for a rock band, but you win, dude.”

See?

My fixation sated for the moment, we left the stables behind and moved on to get the full frontal effect of the carnival. This was my first time back in almost ten years. When we were young the Columbia County Fair was the end of the summer ritual. It was that wrap up weekend where you’d meet your friends after months of absence and tell all the stories you couldn’t tell your parents. Girls were there to be stared at, rides were there to be ridden, if you were lucky you’d leave with motion sickness and a hickey.

Back now, as an adult (by some standards), everything was different. Not just in that “everything seems so small” sort of visiting your elementary school way, but like everything was in sepia tone, faded and dingy. We headed for the nearest fried food stand.

Fair food is a two a day football practice for your arteries. Funnel cake, candy apples, popcorn, grinders, subs, cardboard pizza and bloomin’ onions. Everything smells good, looks bad and goes down worse. We chowed down and looked at the silliness unfolding around us. There were roving bands of thirteen year old thugs with cell phones, tarted up seventh grade girls out looking for boys. Screaming children, mullets galore and a white-trash-a-palooza sea raging everywhere.

Our stomachs already rumbling, we made our way to the rides.

I find carnival rides to be more frightening than Tara Reid’s host of communicable diseases. They have to be transported from town to town on the back of a flatbed. That means they’re constantly being driven and bounced around, subjected to rust and decay and operated by some of society’s choicest individuals.

When I was a kid I’d go on thirty or forty of them, my bowells of steel wouldn’t settle for anything less. My friends and I would sit in the Gravitron upside-down for three or four goes at a time. In some ways, carnival rides are a great metaphor for small town life, you don’t go anywhere but round and round and we loved it.

Not now, nuh uh. We did three rides, all circular in concept and called it a night. I could feel the meatballs in my gullet pushing out like a hernia with a grudge. I felt a little upset at myself for being unable to enjoy them as much as I did as a kid.

This note made me remember how we used to communicate. You’d sychronize Swatches with your parents and hope to meet up later on. There was no electronic tether, you could really get lost.

We played a some carnival games, dropped a few quarters on Splash down and took in a tractor pull. As is usually the case for me with experiences like this, I went in with no expectations. It was great to see the people I’d grown up with. Though friends of my childhood were conspicuously absent, they were replaced by new faces of the same type of small town people.

They were more than happy with the fair, and I found myself even more upset for not enjoying it as much as I used to. My joy with the simple yearly pleasure seemed to have vanished with my residence there, having been replaced with amusement at the spectacle of it all. At least, I thought to myself, there’d always be sheep balls.

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