The second white spray painted line was drawn with a little hitch over a recently tar-patched crack. I looked down to make sure my gazelle-like stride would not exceed the make shift foul line. "Three balls for five dollars, throws must be made from behind the line" barked the carny with curly auburn hair and black metal rimmed glasses.
County fairs are an off-shoot of major league baseball's minor league system. Each major county in Minnesota has one as I'm sure the same could be told in other states, but only a few states could rival the grandness of the Minnesota State Fair (three weeks, reallly?!!?). These county fairs are usually run by the D-crew of the state fair, carnies traveling the US trying to catch on with a bigger company or make enough to move on to the next city/county celebration. We dropped by the Anoka County Fair this weekend to watch my brother turn my grandmother-in-law's old chevy into a metallic wrecking ball for five minutes. Demo derbies are a sight to see if just once in your life. The fans in the stands are most likely those from "Fight Club", those who fix your cars, serve dinners, deliver your mail, people who some snootier sort wouldn't notice unless they took their asses out of their $2,000 personally plated iPhones for two seconds.
The cliches never miss: the biker with the sweat-soaked red hanky on his head with a generous beer gut stretching that 99 cent wife-beater for every taiwanese made fiber with a heavy sleeve-less leather jacket over the top. The very pregenant 16 year old holding a baby while alternating hands to take a drag on a Red. Various assortments of breasticles popping out of multiple exposed bra straps and jean shorts tight enough to look painted on. The wirey old leathered tanned guy that weighted 80 pounds before breakfast was in the pits offering his services for a fee or a bottle.
The sparks fly as two cars race to the middle of the slicked, muddy track to smash the watermelon in the middle, good for $50 and basically your entry fee back. One such race for the melon left its driver dazed enough to take down her fluorescent orange stick signaling she called it quits. But, being knocked out first wasn't the end of the disappointment as race was stopped while seven firemen and women tried to extract the 300+ pound driver from the car. No idea how she managed to get in, but getting out required the jaws of life, an exposed ass crack and mega sling-shot sized animal print thong that I will never be able to un-see, and perhaps a Daddy-size can of butter flavored Crisco.
After taking a crippling blow to the radiator, my brother finished 6th out of 13 cars, good for $25 and a deal at the cheese curd stand. After being beaten down for two hour in the heat it was time to blow money on the midway before heading to friend's place for previously feathered animals on a grill. As the story left off above my first three tosses were of the Ricky Vaughn pre-skull crosses glasses variety and almost managed to miss the entire giant inflatable batting cage-like structure. "Four balls for $5 and you automatically win a small prize". After dumping off my walk-around poker bankroll at home because having several hundred dollars bills in your pocket at a carnvial seems less than smart, I had three singles to my name. My wife of 9 years 361 days (see what I did there?) offered the extra two bucks for male ego purposes.
The length was a little beyond the 60' 6" and flat with a hole where the catcher's mitt should be, but I trying to reach back to 1993 and throw a low to middle 80 mph fast ball and get the auto-win as posted "Male: Any pitch over 75 mph wins". I found those days are WAAAAAAAAAY behind me after tossing three balls under 65, and my fourth was no better at 62 and hitting the outlined right handed batter in the helmet. Fifth and sixth pitch had Harry Doyle going: Juuuuuuuust a bit outside ball six. Wife with arms crosses and a father having to decide between which kid he wants to hear whine because the other one got the auto-prize, I toed the line one more time. This time a kid in a blue Minnetonka jersey stood in the box with the only catcher brave enough to catch me wearing the black and orange of Osseo high school behind the plate as I dropped my arm and let the ball fly versus trying to do some John Daly twist before throwing....
"Double Winner!" the kid in the yellow polo shirt cried. The dejected Minnetonka Skipper batter walked back to the dugout as I handed over two multi-colored inflatable hammers to happy kids after the perfect strike down the middle hit the hole with a thump and $10 wasted let an old man smile like the 120 pound kid with the jersey that barely fit and belt that required extra holes 17 years ago. I don't know if the carny had a button for the speed gun to display a number of his choosing but it was enough to walk away with an empty wallet and a former athlete's pride intact.