September means pencils, books and teacher's dirty looks for the youngsters, but it also means state fair season. That's when the world's largest zucchini squash is at its prime, of course. The farm animals are all shed off and shiny and cute, their horns polished to diamond-like perfection by hard-working and hopeful kids.
The state fair is an annual pilgrimage of sorts, the fairgrounds another temporary home. We need to touch base with turkey legs, corn dogs and deep fried everything. We who sport gray in our hair, or no hair at all, can look with relief at that giant slingshot that shoots high school kids into a state fair orbit. It's a relief because no one expects us to do that. And when we were young enough to actually do that, thankfully, the diabolical state fair scientists hadn't invented the darn thing yet.
Cruising around, you get to see everyone at their best. Best fair-type clothing. Best behavior. Best smiles. If you scowl at any point during a visit to the state fair, you either aren't trying very hard or someone ran off with your date.
And we make those little secret promises to ourselves, too. You see, we'd love to win a ribbon for making a quilt, or raising an animal, or taking a fabulous photograph or coming up with the best painting in the whole state. But not all of us can do those things. Maybe there should be some other categories for the rest of us, such as finding a parking spot close to the fairgrounds that doesn't cost $5. Practical things. Or how about a ribbon for not missing a day's work all year? Or for being a nice guy and always letting other drivers change lanes in front of you.
Somehow, though, we have to be content with just knowing we did those things, so we can feel like a state fair blue-ribbon winner inside.
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Home Country is a weekly syndicated newspaper column written by outdoors journalist and humorist Slim Randles.
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