Last week, Pat and I went to the Crow Wing County fair, as we have done many times in years past. Not a lot changes at the fair from year to year but you know what? Not a lot has to change because it’s still enjoyable. We had heard about the storm the night before and the damage it had done but you had to look hard to find any ill effects. So many people had worked hard to put things back in order, when it would have been so easy to quit because they knew the show had to go on.
It was fun for me to once more walk through the livestock barns and see all of the critters; I remembered so well as a kid but had lost touch with after so many years of city living. To see the old tractors and think how hard people worked back in those days when luxury on your tractor, was some foam rubber to sit on and not air conditioning, G.P.S. guidance systems and satellite radios. We sat on a wooden bench and listened to the music for a while. Old country tunes that have worn a notch in the airwaves but you never seem to tire of them. We ate roast beef brisket and rich ice cream and damn the calories because just for tonight-- no one was counting.
I saw some smiling kids on the pony rides and I remembered a time and a place when my three little kids did the same. Then I saw a tired mom who was trying to keep two kids and a baby happy, short on cash and energy and I wanted to say to her,”Hey let me buy them kids some ice cream and some ride tickets,” but I knew that in today’s society that’s a no, no. I think my empathy had been triggered by a long suppressed memory of a time in 1947 when our Mom, my kid brother, and I and our baby brother in a buggy had walked to a carnival on the outskirts of town. I remembered watching all the kids my age on the rides, squealing and laughing and having a great time. I remembered watching older people work the digger machines trying to get that elusive gold watch. I saw them throwing the rings around the pop bottles trying to win a stuffed animal. But we, as a family, could only watch because we had no money. Then on the way out we passed a cotton candy machine and for a moment we stopped and watched the man spinning the cotton around those pieces of cardboard. Then somebody saw us and gave mom a couple of coins and she bought two of them for my brother and I. On the way home mom tripped on a broken sidewalk and fell cutting both of her knees. She was bleeding and crying and we all cried because our mom was hurt but I know today, she cried mostly because we were so poor and she had wanted so badly to do more for us.
I think often about the things that were so instrumental in my life, growing up from those humble beginnings. Things that still set the standard for me today. You see those things that were so important back then, for building character and being a good person, are still important today. We haven’t found any shortcuts in life to accomplish this any better or faster. No magic potions, nothing you can download or upload or buy at the store of good intentions. It’s always been there in the hearts of people, just like the man giving mom those nickels. Love and caring is like taking a shoot from a plant and starting your own plant. All it needs is a place to grow.