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Fair riff 

Some of them on our county fair special-events committee wanted to start off this year's fair with an old-fashioned greased-pig chase.

That was to get it off to a livelier start than usual — the usual start being the annual fair parade, one of our sleepier spectacles, which we'll rouse ourselves to attend mainly to see the marching band dodge the horse manure, before fading back into our traditional end-of-summer hustings stupor.

Opening the fair with a dull parade goes back at least to 1908, when Geronimo, the great Chiricahua renegade, was our parade marshal. At least they said it was Geronimo. They said he was on a farewell national tour, and his train stopped here en route to a bigger parade-marshaling job at either Pine Bluff or Hot Springs.

He agreed to marshal our smaller parade for a $2 fee and persuaded the engineer to hold the train long enough for him to do the job. I'm skeptical it was really Geronimo because the weekly newspaper's account said he was a friendly, smiling man who even blew kisses to adulatory bystanders — whereas the authentic Geronimo was said to be the hands-down dourest character of the pre-professional rassling era, save perhaps only Rasputin or Osawatomie John Brown.

Buffalo Bill Cody was said one time to have offered the real Geronimo $100 a show just to stand behind a curtain and, when it was opened, to flash the audience a big toothy minstrel grin. A way to debase him, to serially slay the legend like just another straggler bison. If such an offer was tendered, which I doubt, I'm confident Geronimo turned it down. Cochise or Sitting Bull might've done it for the wampum. Not Geronimo.

Anyway, whether it was Geronimo or an imposter doing the grand-marshaling, that 1908 fair parade was our first and last interesting one — unless you count the one just after WWII that was led by our new fire truck, which, just as the parade started, was called to a grass fire two miles out on the old highway, and the whole parade and all the parade-watchers followed it all the way out there, and, when the fire was extinguished, all the way back.

So the greased-pig idea had merit, as a fair-launching change-of-pace if nothing else, but as I understand it they couldn't get anybody to donate the pig. I certainly wouldn't have donated one of my two. Like Geronimo at the Wild West Show, I would've declined on principle, believing as I do that, despite all the bucolic pre-fair fun and excitement that a greased-pig chase can generate, the event would constitute cruelty to animals as is now prohibited by Arkansas law.

You can scoff at that, but pigs generally know the score, and smearing one with the tallow of one of its buds, probably a relative, and then setting a bunch of gap-toothed dim-witted old boys off in pursuit of it is bound to be seen by the pig as outright open-and-shut terrorism, and I don't think that's tolerable even if, and I concede that this is so, the designated sacrificial animal is doomed anyhow to be lugged squealing off to the butcher as soon as the competition is settled.

No, folks, this isn't some idiotic mascot fable, involving the UA (pigs) and ASU (Indians, or former Indians). It's just a brief notice about this year's county fair, and an apologia for having exempted Lonzo and Oscar, the two porkers aforementioned, from participation in it.

I try to avoid anthropomorphism — the same way I avoid the little speed-trap ghost town of Jericho, because no good ever comes from not avoiding it — but these guys are more like family members than prospective bacon. They love life, and have a good time. Their favorite pastime is having you throw a rubber ball and they run and fetch it. They want you do to it again and again, and act real disappointed when you quit. You can almost see them thinking, “Oh, man, they'll eat us for sure as soon as this game's over.”

You'd like to reassure them, but how?

I notice that the swine-judging this year has a new category called “sportiest pig,” and I wanted to enter Lonzo, who's clearly sportier than his bro, but no way I could do that without Oscar getting his feelings hurt, so I guess I'll just keep them both home. If I need to get out — well, if you know anybody who does hog-sitting at a reasonable rate, I wish you'd let me know.

Reckon I'll also skip the other livestock, home ec, and arts-‘n'-crafts ribbon-chasing this year. A new feature there is a scrapbook competition, and I had hoped to submit my Boy Martyr of the Confederacy album, made up mostly of clips of the hundreds of hagiographic articles about him in the Little Rock daily paper over the last 20 years. But I got word that others of our local Civil War buffs were also doing David O. Dodd scrapbooks, some with prize-winning touches such as woodcut illustrations, sepia frou-frou, and decorative period marginalia showing his stretched neck and spy code, and of course I couldn't hope to compete successfully against such as that.

 

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