It’s impossible to take the kid out of even an old cowboy.
That was proven true when we went to grandson Wyatt’s school carnival. Times sure haven’t changed much in over five decades as the excitement for the younger generation was precisely like we remember it when we were there. Likewise, the adrenalin flowed in our veins still, believe it or not, as we kept going in the cakewalk, unsuccessfully.
Tickets were a quarter, up 15 cents from when Mom used to buy ours, but that’s inexpensive by today’s standards. Thus, we bought Wyatt a handful, so he could play every game, several times. He won that cake we wanted on his second try. Trinkets were the typical contest prize, but tokens could be accumulated for “more valuable rewards.”
Our grade school had an annual carnival, and we had to sell those dime tickets in advance. This is a repeat story, but we can’t forget making our self sick trying to be the top third grade salesman. We did win the prize, a Planter’s Peanuts cup, that probably cost a silver half dollar, which would be much more valuable now, had we saved it.
The Charlie Chaplin movie, shown on the school’s projector in the music room, always had a long waiting line, and the film generally tore and had to be taped, maybe more than once. Bingo chairs were forever filled too, because that’s where moms and dads accumulated, trying to ignore the rambunctious kids.
One-room country schools always had carnivals too, and we never missed the ones at Beman and Four Mile and also went to Morning Star and Big John a couple times. They were always so crowded that we had a delay at every booth. The fish pond was behind a sheet stretched across a wire with safety pins, and we could watch them attach the prize.
General stores seemed to be a highlight of those family fun events as flowers and homemade baked goods and clothing items were the main offerings. One year, Four Mile had a ring-around-the-duck game, with four white ducks swimming in a stock tank in the yard, but nobody could throw the fruit jar rubber rings around the necks to get a prize.
Our cowboy friend, Johnny Williams, generally took us to the fair at Herington, and we always walked the midway while he played bingo. Little money ever left our pocket though the taunting from the carnival barkers was rampant. Colored canes were the main prize at the St. Rose Festival, and we still have several of those someplace.
As a teenager, we took a date to the Topeka Fair, and lost two ten spots attempting to win a teddy bear, which we never did. Our luck was better at the water gun shoot during the midway walk at the State Fair where we collected a couple of stuffed animals, which we gave to the state executive FFA secretary for his children.
Briefly reliving the days of our youth is not all bad, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 18:3: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”