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  • Friday, August 27, 2004


    Better late than never America's Worst Mother™

    You didn't think I was going to give her a pass this week, did you?

    Summer is coming to a close for America's Worst Mother™ and her family and so she takes her kids (Chupacabra, Peony, Agoniste, and Melonhead) to the county fair so that they can gorge on fatty foods, collect useless trinkets, and be amongst the freaks, which is a lot like going to the Republican convention but without the hookers and the in-room porn. Let's visit with them, okay?

    It is a glorious morning at the Union Fair, a mainstay of the agricultural calendar that officially spells the end of summer for people in our part of Maine. I saved my pocket money to spend on the Union Fair midway when I was a girl; now my children are doing the same.

    Alas for them, the fair, like Maine itself, has in the intervening years been gentrified. Today the first stall we encounter sells jasmine rice and Thai curries. Next to it is a charming shack selling fruit smoothies and "udderly delicious" organic cream sodas. There's even a tiny mobile espresso bar. Fair-goers can still buy fudge and cotton candy and onion blossoms, but the caravans selling them have become depressingly hygienic, with none of the flies and grease puddles that used to give ordering fried dough such a frisson.

    Yes, the concessionaires have been overrun by swarthy people selling non-American foods who are probably foreigners who snuck over the Canadian border when Michelle Malkin wasn't looking and now, hell, it's getting so you can't even find a good old-fashioned deep-fried Snickers bar anymore.

    Later Meghan is disappointed that Rush Limbaugh isn't making public appearances anymore (probably because of the lack of the aforementioned deep-fried Snickers bars):

    Somewhere along the line the freak show disappeared, taking with it a memorable mustachioed fat lady, a man who lit kerosene in his mouth, and a two-headed calf bottled in amber fluid. Gone is Stormy Winters, the hootchy-cootchy girl whose caravan illustrations depicted her as a kind of erotic snow queen with ice crystals sparkling on her Alpine breasts. Gone too is the booth where you could pay money to look at an actual, breathing, recovered drug addict. I used to make my father laugh by imitating the carney's patter: "Alive, alive, yes he is still alive..."

    Losing Rush also deprived the fair of the Humoungus Draft-Defying Anal Pimple that was also such a hit with the kids before they had to settle for gay aquatic organisms like Spongebob on TV.

    Later Meghan takes the kids to see some oxen doing something that is unclear but allows Meghan to get back what little seventies street cred she once had by referencing songs by Elton John and Procol Harum.

    Huh Jerry! Huh Tom!" yells the ox driver, a teenaged girl in braces and rubber boots. She urges the team forward, dancing beside them, shouting and whacking. "Gee Jerry! Gee Tom!" The oxen pull. They do not seem to mind the blows, but poor Granny does. Her hide is not so tough, and with each stroke of the stick in the dirt-floored ring, one elegant gray-haired woman in the stands winces and flinches and turns a whiter shade of pale.

    After watching the beating of the oxen, Meghan, angling for Scott McClellans job (America's Worst Press Secretary™) tries to put a positive spin on it:

    "It doesn't seem fair, hitting them," Molly says, taking up the theme as Granny disappears into the benignity of the fairgrounds. I know what she means. You watch a farmer whacking and yelling at a pair of dull-witted beasts, which stumble and pull over a short distance a weight so massive that its passage leaves a hard shiny streak along the dirt floor. And you think to yourself, poor oxen, why is this yokel whacking and yelling at them? Don't these people have tractors?

    In a flash, I see how to explain it. "It may look cruel, but what you're seeing here, children, is the origin of our incredible success as a species," I say. "It was man's discovery that he could harness and domesticate creatures such as these oxen that allowed us to develop agriculture, and it is farming that over many years permitted the growth of towns and cities."

    "Wow," Molly says, her eyes following the disgraced team out of the shed past a line of oxen blinking in the sunlight and waiting for their turn.

    "So what you're looking at here," I continue, "is the first great technological development in humanity's progress to where we are today." I sit back, triumphant, ready to take questions. A question is quick to come.

    "Why," Molly asks, gazing at the row of animals, "do oxen stick their tongues up their noses?"

    But Meghan doesn't have an answer as she wistfully ponders the long supple tongue of the oxen and remembers that very special summer in the Maine of her childhood when she became...a woman.


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