Recently we fulfilled a promise that we had made to Lou on a snowy day back in January. It had seemed like a harmless idea to “cross your heart and hope to die” when Lou begged us to take her to the Missouri State Fair to see this year’s champion pigs in the “teacup” division.
"I have this teacup that looks like it fell out of an ugly tree, and there would be nothing better than a pig to fit in it."
But the early morning departure with a highly caffeinated Lou already had us considering the karmic implications of going back on a pinky swear. We had agreed to a sworn mission, and uphold that agreement we would in order to see The State’s Smallest Pig and eat The State’s Largest Funnel Cake.
"I used to make funnel cakes, you know. Back when I was on the Synchronized Swim Team, before I met Al. I would go to swim practice, then work at Friendly Fred’s Funnel Cake Fun Booth. I was afraid I’d outgrow my swimsuit though on account of how we were allowed to eat the cakes we ‘messed up’ Nothing like a funnel cake to get the blood pumping, though.”
As luck would have it, things began looking up right from the start. Lou had nodded off about 10 minutes into the trip which made the trek to central Missouri less “The Bingo Stats Daily Report” and more “The New York Times Bestseller Book Club.” Don’t get me wrong, we love taking Lou out in the world. Seeing things through her eyes can be both illuminating and horrifying, sometimes both at the same time. But the August heat, midway rides, deep fried flour doused in powdered sugar and the musk of un-neutered swine can lead even the most ironclad of stomachs astray. Since arriving anywhere with a well-rested Lou is almost as good as taking Dramamine, we were grateful she napped.
We arrived at the ticket booth to find that it was “Women in Ag” day and so all women got in for free. Lou was convinced that they comped our tickets because “she’s a farmer”.
"I have that concrete goose that Bella Louise gave me, that counts as livestock. Sometimes I even dress it up in little bitty overalls. AND I have those two cherry tomato plants on the back porch. They aren’t looking too good because Muffy tends to pee on them, but I do water them!" This won’t exactly earn her an FFA jacket, but really, who wants to go down that path?
We went directly from the ticket booth to the SWINE building. We patiently walked the rows and rows and rows and rows of pigs. While is was SHOCKINGLY EASY to identify the boars from any other gender possibility, the closest we got to anything that you could call “teacup” sized was a blow-up Porky the Pig hanging from the ceiling in one of the game booths nearby.
Lou’s disappointment was apparent. Being one who enjoys comfort food, and because she had forgotten to bring her cheese balls and gummy bears, we decided to it was time to implement “Operation Funnel Cake.”
One extra large fried dough ball smothered in apple filling did the trick. From the picnic tables near the Funnel Cake stand Lou spotted the carousel. At a shocking $5 a ride we decided that one of us would stay back to “take pictures.” Unfortunately what followed prevented those pictures from coming out…
Lou climbed aboard and chose a white stallion. The calliope started and the carousel rolled into motion.
"Oh Lordy, why on earth don’t they have a mounting block up here. This gelding has to be at least 15 hands," Lou piped up with horse lingo that we didn’t know she possessed. "The summer we went to Coney Island with the Synch Team we saw the place where they filmed the movie Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, you know, the one about horse diving. It was really interesting but nothing that would have held a candle to seeing the champion teacupper.” Lou hung her head as the ride slowed and the music faded away. Nothing left to do but dismount and continue the process of salving a heart broken by a teacup trauma.
We continued down the Midway in an effort to try to distract Lou. “Luckily” she made the height requirements for the Dino Ride. Luckily was quickly changed to UNLUCKILY when the whirling and swirling turned into hurling (pardon the crassness, too perfect of an alliteration to choose a more delicate descriptor). Without going into unnecessary detail let it suffice to say the cleanup cost us a couple of the photos from earlier in the day and at least 20 minutes in the women’s bathroom. “I really think that ride should have been called the Tilt-O-Hurl!” Lou declared after regaining her composure.
It felt like the day was going to be a bust. No teacup pigs, a Midway of nauseous proportion, but then…
From off in the distance we saw something from days gone by. A bonafide sideshow! Posters painted on canvas, leather faced carnival barkers begging you to come see the secret mysteries of the past…all for 1/5 the price of the carousel. This is what we came to see. We coughed up the coinage and slipped inside the tent.
All we can say is that it was worth the buck. To describe what we saw would be to spoil the mystery of it all. Like so many myths of the ages, most of the fun is in knowing the secret and keeping it. Just like a parent playing Tooth Fairy, we willingly went from team “unknowing” to team “knowing” with only a modest monetary investment.
This side show spectacle saved the day. What the Tide Stick and Febreeze packets had done for Lou’s outfit, The Beautiful Girl with the Body of a Snake had done for the stench of disappointment that can only be found when your “teacup” comes up empty. Lou smiled, laughed, and was back to her jolly-ish self. As we left the final tent she announced that the only thing still to see was the Butter Cow.
Not being State Fair regulars, we had NO idea what Lou meant. We had had our fill of fair food cleaning projects so we tried to distract Lou and head her towards the parking lot. Just when we thought she had given up the idea we spotted a LARGE sign by the exit that read “BUTTER COW.” Capital letters and everything.
Ok, now we HAD to go see it. This really was a thing. We walked into the building and were awed, literally awed, by what we saw. Our picture cannot possibly do justice to the work of art that was visible through a window into the refrigerated display room.
Imagine if you will… American Gothic meets Land O’ Lakes.
This was the reason we came to the fair. We came to see the things that people can make, grow, do, and be when they gather together to share what they know and love. We stood in front of the display for way too long. As the stresses of the day melted away it felt really good to be right there, right then. After one final lingering look we turned to head for home.
As we drove back home discussing our day at the fair, we all agreed on one thing. Butter makes everything better.