I guess the reason I like the movie, “State Fair,” so much was I liked fairs so much. And this is the time of year when you have fairs. Lee County just had one last week. But they don’t seem to be as much fun anymore.
The big fair in Frontier Country was about 30 miles away. For a couple of years before I got to go, I’d pump some of my friends who had been and listen, rapturously, as they’d go into details about the Ferris wheels and whips and bumper cars and the other marvels to be seen at the fair.
All the Reeveses—Howard and Hershel, and Charles and Billy Lloyd and Edwin—got to go a year or two before I did. Their daddies were in the sawmill business and they had trucks and they’d take a whole truckload down there. I knew that if I lived long enough, one day, one way or another, I was gonna get to the fair, and it came to pass, that when I was, oh, 12 or 13, I did get to go. I was not disappointed. It was everything a body could hope for in this life or any other life. Man, oh, man.
We all went in Uncle Kelley’s pickup with the school bus bed on it. We’d been picking cotton for a few weeks, slowly accumulating a little money that we could go and blow all in one stupendous night.
I forget whether Kelley drove us down himself or if Artie Chandler, his sharecropper, substitute school bus driver and general right-hand man, drove—we were pretty high on the spirit of adventure at the time. But somebody drove and, after stern admonitions from our parents about how to behave and to be careful, etc., we were on our way, heading southwest, past the schoolhouse (we impatiently noted each landmark), past the McNeese place, past Cut Bank creek, over the state line, past the score or so beer joints that dotted the roadside immediately past the state line along  with the big “brown bottle” and other posters, past Mullin’s Well, past the (to us) mysterious house so high on a hill that you could just see the pointed peaks of over the trees… .
And then we could see the lights of the fair, and before you knew it, we were there, parking, and eagerly heading to the gate to get our tickets as we inhaled the loud smells and sounds and sights of this wonderland.
I understand and appreciate the fact that the main purpose of the fair was/is to serve as a place for the exhibition of exemplary livestock and products of the kitchen and stuff like that. We could see hogs and cows at home, thank you. What we were interested in was the midway, and there it was, all spread out before us, waiting to accept our hard-earned money, and we were ready to give it. Men, this is it.
After a brief stop at the hotdog stand (who could resist that smell?), we’d start down the line of rides. Some of the girls would say, as girls will, “Ooo, I can’t ride thaat! It’d make me sick.” Well, James and I could, don’t you ever doubt it, so we’d say, “Well, y’all go on and do what you want to do. We’ll see you later.” And we’d head for the wickedest looking whipping and spinning and twisting rides we could find. Yippee!
And from way up on the Ferris wheel, even, you could hear the barkers barking away about this or that freak or about one of the girlie shows or the spook house and the shills urging you to come try your luck at one of the games of skill with the hoops or the guns, or to lay your money on one of the numbers and see if the mouse would run in the hole with your number on it. We’d get to those—don’t worry about it. We’d see the man witrh the alligator skin and the woman with more things than she was supposed to have, and the man ride the motorcycle around the walls, and knock each other around in the bumper cars, eating candied apples and cotton candy all the while … .
And in a year or two we;d even get up enough nerve to go into the girlie show, wondering, tensely, as we sat there before the show started, what was going to happen, which was not much, really, but which we’d intimate to our less sophisticated friends later was a concentrated presentation of all the delights of a well-run harem.
Finally it’d be time to go home and we’d climb back in the pickup and head back to the mundaneness, wondering why there had to be such things as cotton-picking, why life couldn’t be just one big continuous carnival.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.