Monday, August 26, 2013

Put Your Corn Dogs in the Air Like You Just Don't Care

The first thing Dylan did when she set foot on the fairgrounds for opening day of the fair was inhale deeply and tell us that she detected upper notes of saddle leather and cinnamon with subtle undertones of acorn and boysenberry.  Actually, she just smiled and said, "It smells like the fair."  Corndogs were frying, livestock were crapping, beer was spilling, cotton candy was spinning and it all combined to smell like only a fair can.

Our first attempt at the carnival rides was a mixed bag.  Grady's just a few inches too short for the AA rides, and Dylan's too short for the big league stuff, so they're stuck in carnival purgatory.  But, they still love the carousel horses and the bumper cars and the small roller coasters.  Ho hum, I thought.  I need action!  I need thrills!  This year I talked Dylan into the most feared ride of all ... The Berry-Go-Round.  Basically, you sit in a giant strawberry and spin around.  The berry-coccoons hold one oversized adult and a handful of skeptical small people who are too polite to ask why a fuzzy old guy is on the ride with them.  There is a wheel directly in the center that the biggest, baddest kid (me) gets to spin.  And oh how I spun that strawberry.  The kids were laughing and I was spinning and spinning until, well, until I got sick.  "Faster," they yelled as I started scouting out spots where I could barf out the undersized door and not hit any families.  Decorum states that fair board members wearing their official fair IDs shall not hurl on paying fair-goers.  "Let's just rest a while," I told Dylan after that mess.

It didn't help that we decided to relax on the Merry Go Round.  Easy peasy, I thought.  I'll just stand here between Dylan and Grady and let my stomach settle.  But the diabolical little girl on the carousel horse directly in front of us had other plans.  As soon as the pipe-organ music fired up and we started going around, her finger started a frantic booger dig-and-scoop from nose to mouth.  It was a wreck I couldn't not watch, and wanted desperately to unsee forever.  The nausea came back with a vengeance and I almost became the first sober adult in history to throw up on the carousel horses.  I settled my stomach with a corn dog and decided relaxing on the Ferris Wheel would help.  Dylan and I went up and as we gazed at the iconic Yreka skyline, Dylan asked, "Daddy, in the 90s did they have Ferris Wheels?"  I laughed so hard that my nausea completely went away.  To celebrate, I ate another corn dog.

Must. Hold. On.

Grady has turned into a roller coaster maniac.  There are two at the fair that he's tall enough to ride.  The Go Gator goes around in a small circle and is made for small children.  Grady throws his hands in the air like he just don't care and leaves them up the entire ride.  I forget what the second roller coaster is called, but it should be named Small Claims Court for the whiplash is causes.  The kids love it, and why they are big enough to ride it bewilders me.  Regina or I have to ride it with them, and keep our arms behind their little heads so they don't break off and roll out into the midway.  Regina needs a masseuse when it's over, I need another corn dog, and the kids just want to ride it again.

Dylan's fair-goal is to spend money.  She brings her coins and bills and is lured into buying anything shiny.  My mantra seems to be, You already have that at home, or, That will break before we get home.  Instead, I convince her to play the Win a Goldfish carnival game.  I figured the fish she won last year was a fluke and it wouldn't happen again.  Last year she came home with three.  This year she won five.  I'm still not sure how.  As is wont to happen to fair-fish, five became four, became three ... you get the picture.  We're down to one, but he seems like he might make it.  I figure the fish, like a fair steer or hog, are good lessons for life.  Take care of them, treat them well, and if you're lucky, they'll live.  And if you're really lucky, you can sell them at an auction.  Dylan's only comment when one of the fish was found floating in the bowl was, "I wish it was just sleeping with its eyes open."
Happy Fair Monkeys

Next year, I'm staying off any ride that spins.  Dylan's already planning on winning some compadres for our survivor fish and wants to do Pee-Wee Showmanship with one of our chickens.  Grady's working on growing those last few inches so he can hit the medium-sized kid rides.  And we'll be there, like a yoga class winding down, inhaling deeply through our noses to catch every smell, and exhaling deeply through our mouths to settle our stomachs.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rodeo Road

Following the last May Rodeo, after watching her classmates finish 1st and 2nd in the Mutton Busting, Dylan came home and announced that she wanted to be a professional sheep rider.  I chalked up her swagger to the cotton candy lunch she'd had, but when I checked in with her a few days later, she was still up for the challenge.  This is the girl who'd been overly confident a few years before about her ability to ride a sheep -- until I sat her on a sheep's back, then she flew out of the chute faster than helicopters leaving Hanoi.  She spent the next two years telling everyone she didn't want to ride a sheep, she only wanted to ride a bus.  Needless to say, her newfound enthusiasm for rough-stock events was surprising.

Wrangler butts
In lieu of going out and finding an actual sheep on which to practice, we utilized what we had.  So, Mutton Busting practice consisted of balancing on wheellines as I rolled them.  We did this twice, then Dylan went to Tennessee.  In my mind, she spent her two weeks away working on her core-strength and agility, like Rocky Balboa training in Russia.  In reality, she ate cheese biscuits and played with her cousins.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of Mutton Busting.  I've stood in too many chutes and have been handed sobbing toddlers, as their parents told me to, "Just stick him on, he'll be fine."  These kids, they suck at riding sheep.  One, because they are so spent from fear that when the gate opens, they immediately let go, and two, they're so upset that their parents are morons, that they suffer an existential  crisis and ponder the meaning of Mutton Busting, then let go and get trampled by sharp sheep hooves.  I even have a little pep-talk I give them: "It's a little bit scary, and a lot of fun, but you don't have to ride if you don't want to."  Granted, it's no TED talk, but it seems to work most of the time.

Dylan needed no coaxing, no pep-talk.  She rolled into the arena in her glittery pink cowgirl hat, her new rodeo shirt, and her pink boots.  The hot tip from a former champion was to ride backwards, so she did.  My hot tip for her was to hang on tight, so she didn't.  Even with Grady cheering her on, and trying to climb on the sheep's back with her, her ride only lasted a couple of seconds.  The highlight was her summersault of a dismount.  She hit the dirt, popped up with arena muck all over her face and new shirt, collected her silver dollar, and said, "I want to do that again," and then, "How about that snowcone now."


The rest of the rodeo was really just a junk-food free for all.  Both kids gorged on snowcones until their faces and shirts looked like they'd spent the afternoon tie-dying at a Phish concert.  Grady got into someone's Doritos, so we stood on diaper watch until we learned that the "new" Doritos are gluten-free.  Crisis averted.

You know what they say, "It ain't over until the wild cow gets milked," so, as the rodeo wrapped up with the Wild Cow Milking, Dylan grabbed her pink hat, and Grady clung to a disintegrating paper snowcone cup as Regina and I herded them toward the truck.  There we were, back on the rodeo-road, making a living busting muttons.