Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Down to earth in Prairie Home

Garrison Keeler would have been proud. Prairie Home, MO, has everything Lake Woebegone has only in dreams.
Saturday, Cecile and I took a winding ride to the 100th annual Prairie Home Fair – an event unlike most of us have seen for decades.  It’s not one of those cows, pigs and jelly jars fairs.  This is community celebration of games, songs and good times. And it is all the better for what it doesn’t have.
Like mobile phones.  The grandstand was full and there were the requisite number of bored teenagers. But not a one was texting, not one was playing a game. And none of the adults were checking email. Their eyes were on the arena.
We arrived just as the kids bicycle races were hitting their mark. About 75 kids from 5 to 12 raced by the handful around four orange cones on a bare-dirt lot. First peddler to make two circuits ahead of the crowd could coast over to a wooden shed and collect $5, cash.
A few more things were notably missing:  Bicycle helmets, clinging parents, knee pads – and lawyers. When kids spun out at that tricky first turn, they rubbed their knees got back on their bikes and peddled like crazy.
But one of those wipe-outs left me a spectacular memory. Two 12-year-old boys who were obviously friends jockeyed for the pole (or cone) on their small-wheeled bikes.  Inevitably, one tumbled and tumbled hard.  He got up, but spilled at yet another corner.
His friend coasted to the booth for his five $1 bills. But as he walked away, he stuffed the bills into his fallen friend’s pocket.
Ain’t that America?