With the county fair almost upon us, visions of past fairs and carnival rides dance in my head. When Wade was about ten, and we lived across the street from the fairgrounds, he managed to get a job with the carnival workers. For the duration of the fair, he was paid a dollar an hour helping at one of the booths. “Win a Teddy bear for your sweetheart!” he would call out enthusiastically. He put in twelve-hour days and loved it.
I know, I know, we probably violated every child labor law on the books. However, we also had one of the happiest ten-year-olds in town.
The workers were so nice to Wade. After they moved on to their next fair, a large box arrived in the mail for him. They had sent about six glass pictures with various decals on them. I remember one was a graceful unicorn, another depicted cute little puppies. The note that accompanied them said these were Wade’s favorite prizes at the booth and they wanted him to have them. I have had a soft spot in my heart for carnival workers ever since.
My earliest memory of carnival rides was being at Okoboji, and going one day to Arnolds Park with my cousins. I have written before about my cousins Eddie and Danny, who made a practice of terrorizing their sister, Margaret Ann, and me. This day, Eddie offered to take me on the rollercoaster. No matter how many times he put crawdads in my suitcase, I continued to trust him whenever he offered to do something for me. He assured me the first car was the best and safest, so I happily climbed in beside him.
As the car chugged up the first steep (very steep) incline, there was a lot of clanging and Eddie turned to me with a scared look on his face and said, “O gee, Molly – it’s never sounded like this before – it must be broken.” Then, before I could react to that bit of encouraging information, we reached the top and, as the cars started down, Eddie stood straight up, arms lifted skyward and emitted a curdling yell worthy of Tarzan at his best. (I did mention, did I not, that Eddie was an idiot).
I have never ridden on a rollercoaster since, with or without Eddie.
Another scary experience happened much later at the Kossuth County Fair. This time the idiot was Bing. He took three-year-old Amy on the Merry-Go-Round while I stood waving at them as they sailed by. Merry-Go-Rounds actually go deceptively fast, at least from the perspective of nervous mothers watching from the ground. Amy also decided it was going pretty fast and began to sob. Bing couldn’t stand for her to be sad, so took her in his arms and jumped off.
While it was going full tilt.
He landed on his feet, I’ll never understand how, and didn’t even stagger. However, I recall he kind of staggered when I launched myself at him, shrieking that he might have killed them both.
Amy loved the jumping off part and asked if they could do it again.
Sometimes it seemed I was the only sane person in our family.