Choice sightings at the state fair


At the risk of whipping the reader into a jealous rage, this is about a recent visit to the Maryland State Fair where I saw -- here's the good part -- Tiny Tim, billed as the "World's Smallest Horse!"

Oh, he was something to see, all right, a tiny palomino that stood just . . . well, there was one problem.

The problem was that after paying your buck to see him, you found out that instead of being 10 inches tall as advertised, the stupid horse was about three feet tall -- only he was standing in a pit to make him look shorter.

I pointed out this obvious scam to the young woman with the 6-inch fingernails collecting money outside Tiny Tim's tent.

She studied me for a moment, then snapped her gum violently and said: "You a poh-leece or somethin'?"

It reminded me of an incident several years ago, when the fair had something called the "World's Largest Rat!", which turned out to be a dead raccoon or an old carpet remnant or something.

Anyway, you can imagine the kind of crowd that attracted.

I remember plunking down my buck and walking in to see the rat and suddenly feeling as if I'd stumbled in on a Klan fish-fry.

There we were, a dozen sweaty people crammed into a tent, all staring at this stupid rat.

The rat wasn't moving a muscle and (if I had to swear to it) probably wasn't breathing, either.

Finally, one badly sunburned guy in a tank top, who looked like he'd just wandered away from a chain gang, said: "Shoot, Clem had a rat biggern' 'at in his baid las' night. Ate right through the piller! Ain't that right, Clem?"

The fellow named Clem nodded somberly, at which point they all went haw-haw-haw and stumbled out of the tent over to the Budweiser stand.

As an addendum to this story, I saw them later on the Tilt-a-Whirl, where a half-dozen state troopers were trying to coax them off the ride. My kind of folks. I'm telling you, it was all I could do not to exchange phone numbers with these people.

Of course, even if you're not into deformed animals -- and I'm sure there are one or two weirdos out there who aren't -- there's plenty to do at the state fair.

For example, after checking out Tiny Tim, we visited the Fool the Guesser booth. There we found a heavily tattooed gentleman with a Marlboro dangling from his mouth who attempts to guess the month of your birth and your weight.

One thing quickly became apparent: We were not exactly dealing with the Amazing Kreskin here.

I watched 10 people in a row challenge him, and he was wrong on 10 straight birth months.

Then again, the guy charged a dollar per guess, and if you won, the prize was a cheap picture frame from Taiwan worth 50 cents.

Here I am making fun of this guy and when the day's over, he probably climbs into his late-model Mercedes and heads back to his mansion for a good, long soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi.

Anyway, after that we spent an hour or so cruising the midway and playing the games of chance, which is sort of like tossing your wallet down a storm drain.

I dropped a quick 10 bucks in the classic rip-off where you try to throw an overly inflated basketball through a rim with the circumference of a garden hose, proving that the collective IQ at the fair lowers considerably when someone like me is around.

From there, we made our way over to the rides, where my son talked me into going on something called the Scrambler.

This turned out to be a ride with a whip-like effect that created enormous centrifugal force, so that you found yourself ramming your elbow into the other rider's kidneys while your neck snapped back and forth, the two of you shrieking in pain and terror for three minutes.

The total effect was like being repeatedly rear-ended by a large truck.

I don't know what the G-force was, but it must have been tremendous. It seemed as though my eyelids had wrapped themselves around the back of my skull.

Still inspired by our almost-mystical visit with Tiny Tim, we decided to take in the "World's Smallest Woman!" tent before leaving the fair.

This turned out to be a dwarf perched on a tiny couch, a bundle of knitting arranged in a basket before her.

At this point, a man in bib overalls and a Charlotte Hornets cap informed me that there was talk (much of it loose, I'm sure) that they might bring back the "World's Largest Rat!" next year.

All we can do is keep our fingers crossed, I said.

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