Wednesday, July 30, 2003

County Fair part two

The Clay County Fair was goin' full tilt. Sunday was always a good day at the fair. Folks still came to the fair after church dressed in their "Sunday go to meetin'" clothes. Little ol' girls had on their dresses, white socks an' either black patent shoes or saddle oxfords. Boys had their cowlicks pressed down with a little luck an' a lot o' spit. Their shirts were pressed white and their shoes shined. Mamas and Dads herded youngin's almost as good as the 4Hers in the barns did their animals.

Uncle Billy sat outside the exhibition hall takin' it all in. He had made brooms an' a few milk stools all weekend till Sunday. He never worked on Sunday. Never did, never would. He didn't sell any of his brooms on Sunday either, though he didn't fault others if they wanted to work or buy an' sell. It was just his personal beliefs was all.

They had a church service on the fairgrounds for all the folks what were missin' church by bein' there an' tendin' their animals or booths. Uncle Billy always led the singin' with his deep bass voice.

A couple years back a collection was taken up to buy some o' them Broadman Hymnals. Each an' ever' one was stamped "Fairgrounds Church Meeting" on the front in gold letters. Inside each one was the name of the folks what donated it.

The preachers around the community took turns doin' the service an' this year it was Brother Harley Davidson's turn. The preacher would always appoint someone to fill his pulpit while he preached at the fairgrounds. Brother Harley was from the Church of God. He asked Jesse Gilbert to fill in for him. Jesse was home from college an' was goin' to make a preacher when he got out.

Uncle Billy watched the parade of folks as they walked 'round the grounds, hands full of this an that, stuffed animals, painted canes, waffles an' cotton candy. More than once a feller would stop an' pass the time o' day with Uncle Billy. They talked about all the important things o' the day...the weather, cattle prices, which youngin' was gonna take the grand champion steer this year. Now that was a hot topic.

When it got dark folks would start comin' round an' settlin' in around Uncle Billy an' Homer Wilson. Both them fellers was storytellers an' ever'one wanted to get as close as they could to hear all them fellers had to tell.

They did a round robin, tellin' a story then sittin' down whilst lookin' at the other, almost darin' 'em to beat that one. Folks was as quiet as the dead, jus' wantin' to hear what they said. It usually went on for two or three hours, goin' from short funny jokes an' such to longer stories an' maybe a scary one or two.

Homer Wilson said, "Now, that is the way I heerd it, an' I reckon fur as I knowed it was true enough." He sat down an' looked to Uncle Billy who stood an' looked over the crowd...

"Now, let me see here. That reminds me o' the time...."

Monday, July 28, 2003

County Fair

"County Fair days in Clay County", folks jus' plain ol' light up when they hear them words. Womenfolks have been puttin' away canned goods all summer just tryin' to get one of them blue ribbons. They fuss over the way every cucumber spear looks as they pack jars for picklin'. They carefully pour hot jelly into jars so no foam appears. They look like they got somethin' wrong with 'em as they shake an' jiggle jelly before it gels...tryin' to get bubbles out.

Uncle Billy walks Old Dog out to the truck and loads him into the front seat. Old Dog knows they are a goin' to the fair. His tail ain't stopped thumpin' for near two days.

The back of the truck is loaded with a cot, an ol' ladderback chair, a couple quilts and Uncle Billy's shave horse. They is a suitcase in the front with his clothes for the week. He has been goin' to the fair as long as he can remember. He has stayed the week at the fair for more years than he cares to count.

He stops an' studies the back o' the truck for just a while an' realizes he don't have no wood to work with at the fair. He always takes his shavehorse an' makes brooms an' milk stools each day in the exposition barn. Back in the back Uncle Billy an several other ol' fellers will set up their cots in stalls what once were used for calves before the cow barn was expanded. 'Lectric fans sit in the winders an' keep a breeze a goin' day an' night for to cool them ol' fellers. They sit around in the evenin' an' talk up a storm. If they was a prize fer jawin', one of them fellers would git it, that is for sure.

Uncle Billy's stride is long as he makes his way to his work room in the barn. He carefully selects about 50 sassafras sticks for brooms an' half agin as many for legs for his milk stools he will make. He already threw some lil' ol' maple logs from the woodpile into the back of the truck for the seats o' the stools. Folks buy them as fast as he can make them. Some folks know he donates all the money to the Oneida Institute for youngin's what cain't afford to pay their way.

As he is walkin' out he grabs his oilcan an' an Arkansas whetstone. Them drawknives is gonna get dull usin' 'em as often as he will this week.

He grins as he throws the sticks in the back an' reaches for the ol' truck door. There is nothin' better than a county fair. He can jus' smell the food now. French fries with a load of vinegar on 'em, them big ol' crispy waffles an' some cotton candy for sure. He eats one of them ol' sausage sammiches 'bout ever' day. 'Course, for supper he goes over to the dinner tent an' has whatever the Eastern Star ladies has fixed for the daily special. Usual Monday is fried chicken, Tuesday is chicken an' dumplin's. Wednesday is that I-talian night an' he don't eat none o' that ol' spaghetti. He jus' don' favor it none at all.

As he drives he cain't help but grin. They is nothin' better than County Fair. The horse show starts that evenin' an' goes through Sunday. It always has been Friday to Sunday an' is the highlight o' the weekend. The 4H judgin' starts Monday early with the rabbits an' poultry.

Next weekend will be a busy time for Uncle Billy. He has auctioned the 4H animals for years. They is new auctioneers 'round the county, but no one has done the 4H auction for near 50 years. He loves workin' the crowd, tryin' to git as much for them animals as he can. It ain't above Uncle Billy to shame folks into raisin' a bid. A load o' youngin's from 'round Beloved went to college with 4H money thanks to the shamin' of Uncle Billy. He reckoned he was gonna have to turn it over to someone one of these days, but as long as he is able, he was gonna do 'er.

The man at the back gate saw Uncle Billy through the windshield an' waved him through. He pulled up an' rolled his window down, "How's it lookin', Joe?"

"Lookin' right good, Uncle Billy. I reckon that Sizemore boy might win with that big ol steer he brung in. You seen it?"

"Yessir, I did. It is as fine a steer as I have seen. How 're the sheep an' goats comin' in? I heard them boys over on Martin's Creek ever' one has an entry this year."

"That is a fact. They all look good. Their Daddy would whup ever' one of 'em if they didn't keep them animals up good. He won I don' know how many ribbons an' trophies in his day."

"Well now, he did from what I recollect. Well I better get on."

"Have a good time this year, Uncle Billy"

"Y'all can bet on that one."

Uncle Billy grinned as he drove into the fairgrounds. He pulls up to the exhibition barn an they is half a dozen youngin's see him an' come runnin'. They have his cot an 'bout ever' thing else in his stall before him an' Ol' Dog can get out. They are a grinnin' as hard as he is.

He rubs the burr headed Arnett boy with his big ol' hand like he has done ever' year. "That's for luck." Uncle Billy tells the boy. It must have worked 'cause last year he won for best of show with his market turkeys.

Uncle Billy looked over the hurry scurry of the fairgrounds and his grin got even bigger, "Yessir, they is nothin' better than a county fair."