The front page of the Sunday paper headlined the opening of this year’s Lee County Fair. I’ve never been to this fair, but I assume it’s similar to every other traveling fair that comes to small town America each fall. I read the article, and my mind wandered back to the autumn of 1956.
I’d just moved Jackson, Mississippi for my senior year in high school, and was still in the process of getting to know my new classmates. Playing football had eased the ordeal of fitting in with kids who had gone to school together since Power elementary. On Friday night we had somehow beaten our cross-town rival Provine, and the euphoria of a rare win inspired me to look for a date.
Everyone had been talking about going to the State Fair on Saturday, and I thought that might be the perfect opportunity to ask a certain young lady to accompany me. I called Susan on Saturday morning and invited her, and to my amazement, she agreed to go. Susan was a year younger than I and knock out good looking. She was smart as a whip and witty to boot. In short, my dream girl.
I managed to scrape up enough money to finance the evening and picked Susan up at six sharp. The plan was to eat at the fair, so neither of us had eaten much since lunch. As we drove down Riverside drive, I attempted to make small talk, and my effort elicited one of the coolest responses I’ve ever heard. I asked,
“Susan, is Bobby Joe Smith in your class?”
Without batting an eye she shot back,
“No, he’s in my grade, but certainly not in my class.”
That did it, I was in love.
As we approached the fairgrounds, we could see the lights, hear the music and smell the aroma of dough dogs and cotton candy, mixed with the burning leaves of fall. As soon as we paid our admission, I began searching for something eat. There was a vast array of choices, and I decided on BBQ. Susan got a bag of potato chips and a fountain coke, while I had two pulled pork sandwiches and two cartons of milk.
We left the BBQ tent and walked down the fairway, checking out the games and attractions. She couldn’t resist getting a big wad of cotton candy, and of course, I had to join her. I managed to win a Teddy Bear at the rifle range, and Susan reluctantly hauled it along. She suggested that she might enjoy a candied apple, and I found one for each of us.
By this time we were in the back of the fair where all the rides were, and after we ate two of the mustard covered dough dogs and another giant coke, we were standing in line to ride the bullet. The bullet consisted of two cylindrical tubes attached to the end of what looked like a giant lawn sprinkler. Not only did the arms rotate at high speed, the cylinder itself spun on its axis. Looked like it might be fun.
We’d just polished off the dough dogs and tossed the wax paper wrappers in the trash, when we reached the end of the line. A guy held the doors of the bullet open, and I helped Susan get seated and made sure we both were securely belted in. Another couple sat facing us, about four feet away. The door was closed and the long arms began to move. When top speed was reached the cylinder began to rotate and away we went.
It was impossible to focus your eyes due to the rotation and centrifugal force, and the whole world was a blur filled with excited screams. I began to feel a little queasy, and pretty soon everything that I had eaten came surging up. It was like barfing in a food processor. Everyone was covered with a thin film of BBQ, cotton candy dough dogs and candied apples.
When Susan had managed to clean most of my supper off of herself, she suggested that she might want to go home. She said nothing on the drive home, and remained silent as I walked her to the door. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t offer a good night kiss.
All of the excitement and the loss of my dinner had left me a little puckish, so I drove to the Shamrock and ate an open faced steak sandwich and drank two draft beers. When Lee Lipscomb asked me how my date with Susan went, I replied,
“Oh it was OK, but I probably won’t ask her out again.”